Vaccinations: What We’re Getting and What We’re Not

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.


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  1. Nadine Hudson says:

    Dear Amy
    Good post and a good decision for not vaccinating your children for JE.

    Beware with Hep. B that even if vaccinated it doesn’t mean that you or your children have developped enough antibodies. Neither of our boys nor me had enough antibodies after four injections. Anyway, children have a super low risk at gettting Hep. B.

    Hep. A is in my opinion also not necessary for children who will travel a long time. Children get Hep. A when exposed to it and you won’t even notice they had it. It’s as mild as a cold in small children. Both our children had it sometime during our first travels and we never even noticed. Once the child had it they are immune for life without ever getting a vaccination. The problem with this is if you only travel a short time and bring home a child with Hep. A it might pass it on to adults in your home country…. that’s why short-term travelling children should be vaccinated. However, in your case, you will be away long enough for your children to have the illness and recover from it, developping immunity before returning to Canada. The children who live in Hep A risk countries have the illness when they are little and become immune. I am sorry if my explanation sounds complicated…. my English has seen better days :-). And of course I am no doctor….

    Enjoy spring!

    Love from overseas

    1. worldschooled says:

      I did not know that about Hep A! Thanks for the info Nadine.

  2. Chris G says:

    Attacked by a monkey over a bag of chips! Now that should be your next blog! 🙂

    This reminds me of a zoo we were at in Manaus, Brazil way back in the early 90’s. We had wandered off the beaten track down some tree-covered path into the bowels of the zoo property and discovered a cage full of monkeys. Lots of ’em! And they were easy to get close to so we were petting them, feeding them, playing with them. They didn’t seem normal though – very subdued, no screeching, no flying around. Too calm for monkeys.

    What we didn’t take notice of at the time (and couldn’t read because of our horrible Portuguese) were the large signs with large lettering saying, “Danger! These animals have been quarantined! Do not approach, do not touch!”. We still have a picture with the sign in the background.


    We’re still alive. Nothing wrong with us (touching wood). Had one of them decided to bite us, this may have been a different story! 🙁

    On the vaccination front, I’m mostly opposed to the usual set the kids receive at school. We opt out where we can. The risks & side effects are probably minimal but so are the rewards – and I’m sure some vaccinations such as the HPV and Flu shots are far more harmful than good IMHO.

    But when you travel to faraway lands where some diseases are still common and where treatment may be days away? Tough call. I think your decisions were spot-on.

    1. worldschooled says:

      That is so funny Chris! Good thing they didn’t reach out and scratch you!!!!!

      I am not anti-vaccine (obviously!) but I do think that each vaccine needs to be researched and understood. We would never get a flu shot and if I had a daughter she would not be getting the HPV vaccine.

      I was talking with a relative the other night about vaccines as she is a health nurse. We were chatting about how many families opt out of vaccines and now in BC we are getting outbreaks of whooping cough and rubella. The conversation continued with her telling me about the families who have immigrated from places like India and how they almost always vaccinate because they have seen what these diseases can do and are so grateful to have free vaccinations for their children.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    You hit the nail on the head Amy, to research as much as one can about each vaccine. That is the key point I stress and it is an ignored issue by most parents and MDs.

  4. alyson says:

    Totally agree with you not getting rabies, I havn’t researched J E but take your sisters verdict onboard and I agree with Nadine about Hep A. but Malaria, that’s a tricky one. We did India without malaria prophylaxis last time because all we could find to buy in Nepal was Larium and we didn’t want to take that. Most of India is fairly low risk anyway. But would I risk it with the kids? Not sure yet, I havn’t looked into side effects in children, I’m not fond of doxycycline, it basicly gives you a much higher risk of skin cancer. North Thailand, up on the Burmese border is rather risky, and we’re going there, we hope to go to Burma too, I believe we took them through Vietnam and Cambodia last time too. Early days, much research to do, It’s a tough call! I’ll be watching your decision with interest. Same here in Australia, they will sell you everything they possibly can unless you can find a decent doctor, as we did last time we went to Thailand, she told us not to bother with anything, exactly what my feeling was. We live in the tropics with mosquitos and Dengue fever, now that’s one that worries me..Dengue, no vaccine for that.

  1. Pre Travel To-Do List | Worldschool Adventures says:

    […] decided to only vaccinate the boys for Hep A and Typhoid.   The other vaccines that were recommended to us were Rabies and Japanese […]

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