With the advent of global travel, which is now no longer limited to the traditional holiday seasons, as healthcare professionals, we need to have an awareness and understanding of travel vaccinations. Some patients may only mention their plans for trips abroad as an aside to the main reason for consultation, with others attending specifically for advice on their upcoming journey.
The basis of advice is simple. There are a number of diseases in other countries which as UK natives we will not have been immunised against, and certainly have no innate protection from. At the same time, natives of a foreign country who have relocated to the UK and are returning home to see relatives will have lost that previous immunity very quickly, and need to be vaccinated in a manner similar to those who have spent their entire lives in Great Britain.
Ideally vaccination should be first addressed six months before the proposed journey. Some courses will require multiple injections, which can often be a month apart, and the body also requires time after this to build up its defences to an appropriate level. Vaccines can be organised through the routine GP service, and now there are dedicated travel vaccination clinics. Most vaccinations for abroad are not covered under the remit of the NHS, and if more than two or three are needed, it can become expensive, but we need to impress upon patients that these are a necessity as opposed to an option.
Despite being vaccinated it is important to advise that immunisations are not 100% effective, and there are not vaccines against all diseases, notably Zika and HIV. Hence, the message of avoiding casual unprotected sex and ensuring that any food and water consumed are from sources with high levels of sanitation, still applies.
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