Which vaccinations do we need for a trip around the world?

“So where do you want to go?”

“Well, we can’t tell yet. Actually, there is no place we don’t want to see. So we would like to have the complete package for all remote corners of the world”

This is how our conversation started with the tropical doctor about two months ago. In the course of preparations for the big journey, there comes the time when you have to think of all vaccinations needed. Don’t start too late: You should take care not later than six months prior to departure, because some vaccinations must be injected several times. So, don’t hesitate to get consulted by your tropical doctor.

Some vaccinations are optional, not always obligatory. It always depends on the regions you are going to visit, the amount of time you are going to spend there AND especially, your way of traveling. There is a huge difference between going to fancy hotels or restaurants and eating everything available in  local street food, sleeping outdoors and spending a few days far from civilization, where you don’t have access to clean water.

We know that we also want to go beyond well-trodden paths. So that is what we asked our tropical doctor for advice.

Which vaccinations do we need for our trip?

We’ve compiled a list, where we have listed all vaccinations we got in addition to the vaccines recommended for Germany. Due to previous stays in Africa and Asia, we already had some vaccinations. We also listed them, because we would have needed them if we would not have had them.

We’ve left out the courses of the diseases on purpose. It is an uncomfortable topic and pushes everyone in a bad mood… certainly all of them are nasty or life-threatening!

Moreover, it is important to have a proof of certain vaccinations (especially Yellow fever) when applying for a visa or entering some countries. Best check beforehand  if you already know where you will be going.

Against?Basic immunization after Transmission pathRegion
Typhoid fever1 x injected

protection for 3 years or

3 x oral

at intervals of two days

protection for 1 year

contaminated water or foodAsia; Africa; Latin America
Hepatitis A2 x

at intervals of 6-12 months

protection for 10 years

contaminated water or foodAsia; Africa; Latin America
Hepatitis B3 x

first at intervals of 4 weeks; then again after 6-12 months

protection for 10 years

Body fluids, especially sexual contactAsia; Africa; Latin America
Meningococcal meningitis1 x

protection for 3 years

Droplet infectionv. a. tropical Africa South of the Sahara; Asia & fasteners World
Rabies3 x

in three weeks

regular refreshment

from animal to humanAsia; Africa; Latin America
Japanese encephalitis2 x

4 weeks apart

protection for 2 years

Mosquitoesrural areas of South and Southeast Asia
Cholera2 x (oral vaccine)

at intervals of 7 days prior to departure

protection for 2 years

contaminated water or foodSouth Asia; Africa
Yellow fever1 x

protection for a lifetime

MosquitoesLatin America; Asia

[/ su_table]

Certainly you can forgo some vaccines, especially for shorter trips – everyone has to decide for oneself. To avoid risk, you can follow a simple rule for water and food: cook it, peel it or forget it!

Against what can’t we get a vaccination?

Malaria: Is transmitted by mosquitoes mainly during evening/night. The disease is widespread in many tropical and subtropical areas in South-East Asia, Latin America and Africa. A prevention is only possible by avoiding mosquito bites. For that, the following things are helpful:

  1. long clothing
  2. mosquito spray and
  3. a net to sleep (alternatively air conditioning)

There are areas with varying high risks of infection. If you are traveling in regions with a lower risk, you can take a so-called standby drug for emergency with you. If you feel symptoms and no doctor is available within 24 hours, you can help yourself with it (until a doctor is found).

In areas with very high risk, you can take tablets for prophylaxis before, during and after your travels. I have witnessed already, that people who took that pills still got sick, some even had heavy side-effencts. I decided to forego the expensive pills and I would handle it like that again.

Dengue: Is also a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. But beware: In contrast to malaria, dengue is mainly transmitted by diurnal mosquitoes. Is it quite mean, that they will bug you also during the day…

Zika virus: Here we go again with the mosquitoes, they are sly old dogs… A human-to-human transfer is also possible via sexual contact. The virus is especially up-to-date in South and Central America, and Southeast Asia.

What covers the health insurance?

An important question, because all these vaccines can become very quickly quite expensive.

Well, unfortunately there is no general answer. In the end, every health insurance (at least in Germany) itself decides what they paid and what not. The best is to ask your health insurance beforehand.

Unfortunately, only a part of our vaccination costs were refunded by our health insurance. However, other travelers were luckier than us. Afterwards, it would have been better from a financial perspective to change the health insurance.

Our final recommendation is to take care of the vaccinations at an early stage and to try to obtain information about the best insurance for supporting you beforehands.

Sources (German):