One of the most common concerns when it comes to traveling is what vaccinations to get to ensure travel safety. While theft preventing is important, protecting our health is just as important as protecting your valuables. With a wealth of information out there, deciding on the type of vaccination to get, or even just trying to find where to get them can be overwhelming. To help you get started, I will be sharing with you my experiences with getting vaccinated in Canada.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert or authority on vaccinations. You should consult with a physician and a travel clinic before making a decision to which shots or medication you need to get before traveling.

The three biggest questions most people have when it comes to travel vaccinations are:

  • Which shots do you need
  • How much do they cost
  • Where do I get the immunizations

Necessary Vaccinations and Their Cost

When finding out which shots you need, you must first go to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or Government of Canada – Travel.

In the CDC website, you can do a search of all the countries you plan on visiting. Each country has a guideline on which immunizations you need to get to protect yourself from illness or worst case scenario: death

Routine Vaccines

The six routine vaccines that are required for all travelers are as follows:

  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Polio

The good news is these 6 vaccines can be administered in two shots: Measles-Mumps-Rubella, and Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio. The shots are technically free, but the needle disposal fee applies.

Just a word of caution: the shots can painful and will leave you with a sore shoulder and possibly flu-like symptoms for the next day or two.

 

Getting Your Pre-Shots can be a pain

Pre-Trip Shots

 

Hepatitis A&B

Hepatitis A is viral disease that is typically contracted through contact with contaminated food or water, or through close contact with a contaminated person. Individuals who become exposed to Hepatitis A typically get better overtime, and will build lifelong immunity to the virus.

Hepatitis A may occur worldwide; however, you may consider getting vaccinated especially if you will be traveling to Asia, Africa, Central and South America, where the risk of transmission is greater.

Hepatitis B is a type of liver disease caused by a virus that can be contracted through the exposure of infected blood or bodily fluids. Like Hepatitis A, Hep B may occur worldwide, but according to the Government of Canada, areas with a great population of individuals affected by chronic Hep B include parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. If you are planning on visiting these areas for an extended period of time, you may also consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t done so.

The good news is, if you attended elementary or high school in Canada, chances are you may already have been vaccinated against  Hepatitis B.

Cost – $180.76 for both shots.

Vaccinations that Prevents Death

After speaking with a pharmacist, he told me that there are two categories of shots you want to consider getting. One is to prevent sickness that makes you sit on a toilet for several days and in most cases, will recover naturally. The other on is to prevent death.

Death preventing vaccinations:

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is an acute viral disease that is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes in the tropical regions of Africa and South America. According to the World Health Organization, proof of vaccination is required for travelers who are visiting countries or arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. For a comprehensive list of countries at risk for transmission, or countries requiring proof of vaccination, please visit this link.

Should you require vaccination, please do NOT leave it until the last minute for two reasons:

  1. There is currently a shortage of yellow fever vaccines in Canada! Please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada to locate your nearest yellow fever vaccination center.
  2. The vaccine takes 10 days to become effective if this is the first time you are receiving it. Hence, the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis will only become valid 10 days after vaccination.

Cost – $177.45 (Shoppers Drug Mart price)

Meningitis

Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. According to the Government of Canada, outbreaks occur worldwide with seasonal variations. For more information regarding with concern, please visit the following link.

For majority of travelers, the risk of contracting meningitis is quite low unless you are traveling through large, crowded areas or are living or working in an area where outbreaks are occurring.

Meningitis outbreaks occur between December and June each year in a region in Sub-Saharan Africa called the Meningitis belt.

 

Meningitis Belt

 

Cost –  $144.66

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a bite, scratch or a lick on broken skin by an infected animal. In Asia and Africa, the transmission of rabies is mostly through dogs. While bats have reportedly been the source of transmission in Australia and Western Europe. Other risky areas include Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The only exception is Antarctica.

After a thorough consultation with a pharmacist, we learned that rabies vaccination does not last very long. This leaves us with two options:

  1. For short term travelers, or individuals who will be working with animals, get vaccinated prior to departure.
  2. For long term travelers, only get treated if you, unfortunately, get bitten, scratched or licked by a rabid animal.

If you are bitten, scratched, or licked on broken skin by an animal, seek medical assistance immediately. Rabies can be fatal if treatment is delayed.

Cost – $242.67

Malaria

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that causes fever, fatigue, vomiting, headaches, etc. This disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of a female mosquito infected by malaria parasites.

While there are no vaccines available to prevent Malaria, anti-Malarial medications could be purchased prior to departure. These drugs must be taken before, during and after your travels to prevent Malaria.

Please speak to your healthcare provider to get a prescription for anti-Malarial medication should you plan on traveling to Africa, Oceania, South Asia or South America, where the risk of transmission ranges from high to moderate. For a comprehensive list of regions at risk for transmission, please visit here.

 

Regions Affected by Malaria

MalariaDistribution

 

From what I have heard, the prices of Malaria pills vary depending on your place of purchase. I heard that you can get them really cheap in Botswana. Just make sure you get at least a one week supply before traveling if you plan on purchasing the Malaria pills in other countries.

Cost – $203.68 – 38 day supply

Diarrhea preventing vaccinations:

Cholera

Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine caused by consuming food or water that has been contaminated. For the majority of travelers, the risk of becoming infected with cholera is low, provided they practice good personal hygiene, and safe food and water precautions.

This includes washing your hands prior to eating, consuming foods that have been cooked, and drinking water that has been boiled, treated, or comes in a commercially sealed bottle.

Individuals who are at higher risk would be those who are living, or working in areas that have outbreaks, or limited access to safe food or water.

Cholera can occur in any region without adequate sanitation, although it is more common in developing countries.

Cost – $50.67

Typical Traveler’s Diarrhea 

Traveler’s Diarrhea is an illness typically caused by consuming contaminated food or water. While it’s not pleasant to sit on a toilet for a few days, traveler’s diarrhea is not serious and most symptoms will clear up in a few days.

The illness can occur worldwide, but developing countries such as Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia may be regions of higher risk.

Traveler’s Diarrhea Oral Vaccine Cost – $99

Traveler’s Diarrhea Treatment Medication Cost – $19.87

Other death or illness preventing vaccinations:

Japanese Encephalitis

Japanese Encephalitis is a disease that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Found in all Asian countries and parts of Western Pacific, the disease starts spreading during the summer and fall in temperate regions such as China, Japan and Korea. Japanese Encephalitis can also spread year round in tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

For most, no symptoms present. But in severe cases, symptoms that may appear include fever, vomiting, nausea, general weakness…etc.

Risk of infection is low in the city, unless travelers are visiting rural and agricultural areas. Risk is also high when doing outdoor activities such as hiking, camping or fieldwork.

Cost – $217 (Atlas Immunization)

Typhoid

Typhoid is an infection caused by bacteria and is transmitted through the consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

This disease is common in developing countries with poor sanitation or standards. The chance of risk depends on areas that are visited, length of trip and activities that are being done.

Symptoms can vary from fever, headaches, constipation or nothing at all.

Antibiotics is the common treatment used for Typhoid.

Typically recommended for people traveling to South Asia. (For complete list of areas included, please click here)

Cost – $75 (Atlas Immunization)

Conclusion

After consulting with a pharmacist, I learned there are two ways to approach the vaccination process:

  1. Be 100% safe and get vaccinated for everything. However, this approach is far too expensive.
  2. Get vaccinated against deadly illnesses, and accept the fact that I may spend part of my trip sitting on the toilet. Diarrhea based illnesses is not fatal, and it’s certainly not as bad as death.

From a personal stand point, I made sure I got vaccinated for illness that can kill me or significantly delay me during my travels. I ended up getting the Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, Diphtheria, Typhoid, and Tetanus vaccines. I will also be taking Malaria pills when traveling to areas where the disease is present.

Yellow Fever. Typhoid and Hepatitis A shots

Vaccines

 

Six weeks before departure, make you to start getting vaccinated. Talk to a healthcare provider and assess your needs using this link.

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Safe travels!

2 thoughts on “The Canadian Guide to Getting Your Pre-Trip Vaccinations

  1. In malaria susceptable regions you can buy what the locals buy which is far cheaper than the drugs sold in Canada. The 2 most common western drugs are Lariam and Malarone which are expensive synthetic drugs and cost around $5 each tablet and have side effects. Lariam causes hallucinations in some people. The drug makers make huge money selling those in western countries, particularly to their militaries.. In most other regions of the world the most common and inexpensive anti-malarial drug (discovered by Chinese) is an extract from natural artemisia plant. Because it is natural it cannot be patented. So artemisia based anti-malarial drugs are banned in USA, Canada and most of Europe….

    1. Wow Anthony, that’s awesome info. Do they have Artemisia based anti-malarial drug in Africa as well?