Pre-travel Must Do: Vaccinations

I was not planning on organizing and stacking my things in a box just yet, but the sudden realization of misplacing my International Vaccination Certificate (IVC) forced me to start doing so after I turned my whole pad upside down. I knew that I would be having nightmares tonight if I didn’t even fractionally tidied up after creating that kind of wreck.

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If you’re wondering why I got my panties in a wad over this silly IVC, I would be happy to explain why. This yellow piece of paper is the document you will be required to show at the Immigration of several countries before you will be allowed entry. The requirement serves as a proof of the vaccinations you received prior to your travel. When you travel, it is crucial to get vaccinated as some diseases that are not common in your country may still exist in the countries that you intended to visit. For example, when I visited Tanzania, you cannot enter the country without getting the yellow fever vaccine. The Immigration Officer specifically asked me to present my IVC or commonly referred to as the yellow card before I was granted a visa upon arrival. This was the most important advice my volunteer friend told me prior to my trip. She said that I really needed to secure that or else I was going to end up like her when she first arrived. She had to be detained for hours at the airport, agonizing over whether she will be granted entry or deported.

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Further, in airports and seaports, there is always that probability of being exposed to certain diseases so it is always best to get vaccinated for your own protection.

Before you travel, review your vaccination record and check with your doctor to ensure that you have had all the recommended vaccines. The best plan is to allot 3-6 weeks in getting the shots as some vaccines take time before they can give full protection, while some vaccines must be given in a series that can take several days, weeks, or months if necessary. An example is my Twinrix Hep A and Hep B doses where I had to take the second dose a month after my first shot and the third dose on the next month thereafter.

It is best to keep a record of all the vaccines you got so you can track them. Some vaccines lose effectiveness over time which is why there are booster shots needed after a certain number of years. I keep a vaccination booklet of all the shots I have had in which I take note of the dates I got them and when the next schedule of my booster doses will be.

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Remember that there are 3 types of vaccines for travellers: routine, recommended, and required. Routine vaccines are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world. Recommended vaccines are the ones that will protect you from illnesses to prevent them from spreading across international borders. These vaccines depend on the season of the year, your age, or how much time you will spend in rural areas. I remembered being advised to get the Influenza immunization along with my yellow fever shot because the period when I was travelling to Tanzania was flu season which tragically paired up with my lung problem. Lastly, Required vaccines are the mandatory ones, like the yellow fever vaccine in most African countries.

It is important to conduct research on your dream destinations and be aware of the travel notices or possible outbreaks. You might need to get vaccines that were not usually recommended, or you might take other precautions like getting the rabies vaccines or bringing with you antimalarial medication (which I was not such a big fan of but had to suck it up because it was important to take them everyday while I was in Africa.)

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