Before Mike and I first went to South East Asia for our honeymoon, we went to a Travel Doctor to see what kind of vaccinations we would need. At the time I was working for a company that provided an EXCELLENT extended medical plan that covered 80% of the cost of any vaccination we needed.
Our attitude back then was:
Someone else is paying for it. Shoot us up with everything you got!
We were poked with every single vaccine our Travel Doctor recommended. No thought went into it on our part, no research, no apprehension.
Now that we need to consider what vaccines to get for our children, our attitudes are very different. We sought the advice of a Travel Doctor but took everything she said with a grain of salt. In Canada travel vaccination is a private industry. A business where, as in all businesses, the goal is to make money. We have been doing a hefty amount of research on our own weighing in risk factors of the disease with risk factors of the vaccine.
Now, our children have received all of the childhood vaccinations recommended by Health Canada so they are vaccinated for deceases such as Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, and Hep B. Considering this, our Travel Doctor recommended they get vaccinated against four additional diseases: Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, and Hep A.
After researching we have decided to proceed with two of these vaccinations: Hep A and Typhoid. Since the Hep A vaccine is two doses received over a six month period (and we don’t know when the house is going to sell) we decided to get these ones done right away. The Typhoid will wait until we know our date of departure.
We decided not to get the Rabies vaccine for a few reasons. First, getting the vaccine does not equate to immunity, it only gives you more time to get to a hospital to receive additional shots. Without the vaccine if you get bit or scratched by a dog, bat, or monkey you have 48 hours to get to a hospital and get the first of a series of five needles. Since we don’t plan to be that far off the beaten track we won’t be more than 48 hours from a hospital. Secondly, what are our chances of getting bit? I am not saying it does not happen, it does. Street dogs can be scary. But instead of getting vaccinated for something that may or may not happen we will instead do our best to prevent these kind of situations. We will do this by educating our kids to not go near stray dogs and stay away from the monkeys (I seriously dislike monkeys anyways after being attacked by one in Bali over a bag of chips).
The decision on Japanese Encephalitis was a hard one for us. This is a vaccine that is usually only recommended to people who will be spending large amounts of time in rural farming areas…..and for children because they don’t take as much precautions to prevent mosquito bites as adults do. What caught us up on this one was that JE is a routine vaccination for children in Thailand. So I enlisted the help of my sister who is an incredibly smart Nurse. She studied the studies for me (she understands all the medical jargon!) ploughing through the information over the course of an evening. In the end she felt the vaccine was unnecessary and that the risks of the vaccine outweighed the risk of the disease.
As for Malaria we will not be taking Anti-Malarial medication. Most of the places we are traveling have little to no risk and when we do venture into places with some risk we plan on only doing so in the dry season, and taking precautions such as long, light coloured clothing, and using Deet. We do not plan on traveling anywhere where there is a high risk of Malaria.
And there you have it, our families vaccination decisions.
This post contains only our opinions for our situation. Seek the advise of a medical Doctor before deciding whether or not to vaccinate.