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Travel Vaccinations – The Hidden Expense

A Trash Pile in New Delhi
A massive pile of trash outside Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi

Travel Vaccinations are one of those things people generally don’t plan for at the beginning of their trip. Everybody thinks about the big expenses like flights and accommodation, but if you don’t have any of your vaccinations yet and are headed to areas like Africa, SE Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, travel vaccinations can be as expensive as a flight. The parts of this article relating to money may not apply to people from countries which get free health care, but as an American, getting vaccinated can be quite expensive.

Regardless of where you’re from, you should still be aware of what diseases are prevalent in countries and regions you’ll be visiting in your travels. A good place to check for travel vaccines you’ll need on your trip is in the travel section of the CDC’s website (Centers For Disease Control & Prevention). This site is for Americans, but can be used as a pretty good reference for most countries; or you can check your countries equivalent site as well.

Most doctors administrating these vaccines should be aware of what you’ll need when you tell them where you’re going, and if they’re not, they should be able to look it up. However, it’s a good idea to do your own research beforehand as not all doctors know what they’re talking about when it comes to traveling. I had a doctor in Las Vegas last year tell me I had to carry proof of all my vaccinations to the Philippines. This is not true at all, some countries require proof of vaccination for things like yellow fever, or if you’re coming from a yellow fever zone you may be asked for proof of your yellow fever vaccine when entering your next country. This is why it’s always a good idea to do your own research for both entry/exit requirements and required/recommended travel vaccinations before your trip.

Now let’s talk actual prices… Using the travel vaccination price list below, say you’ve never had any vaccines before, and you’re planning a trip to India for a month. According to the CDC, you’ll need to be up to date on Tetanus ($35), Human Papillomavirus ($93), Hepatitis A ($25 X 2), Hepatitis B ($32.50 X 3), Typhoid ($53), Polio ($25), Malaria ($39 prescription + $15 – $160 for pills), Japanese Encephalitis (if you’re in rural areas, but we wont count this), and rabies is optional. Rabies is a tricky one, the shots are VERY expensive, and an after-you-get-bit treatment is available, so I usually take my chances. Hepatitis A is generally given in 2 doses 6-18 months apart. Hepatitis B is given in 3 doses, over 6 months. I believe you’re okay to travel with Hep A and Hep B vaccines after the first dose, but to complete the protection you need all required doses. Malaria is one you’ve got options on; the cheaper malaria pills all have side effects (photosensitivity, crazy dreams, etc.) and the expensive pills are just that, very expensive. So say you do the cheap malaria pills and opt out of Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies, but have never had any of the others. You’re looking at spending 35 + 93 + 50 + 97 + 53 + 25 + 39 + 15 = $407 just on travel vaccinations! If you want to play it safe and do Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis, with the good malaria pills, you’re looking at paying over $1600!!!

Some people decide not to get any travel vaccinations, and come home perfectly healthy. Some people don’t know they’re supposed to have these shots, and still come home perfectly healthy. Many people have already been vaccinated for some or all of their Hep A and Hep B, as well as some others. Your actual cost will be a number based on your vaccination history, comfort level with risk of infection, and your destination. At the end of the day it’s up to you, it’s not a required cost of travel, but I generally choose stay up to date on the big ones, it’s not worth risking your entire trip on it.

Travel Vaccination Sample Prices

Hepatitis A: $25.00 X 2 Rabies: $200.25 X 3
Hepatitis B: $32.50 X 3 Japanese Encephalitis: $150 X 3
Polio: $25.50 MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) $36
Typhoid/Injectable: $53.50 Tetanus/ Diphtheria & Pertussis (Tdap): $35.25
Meningococcal : $65 Human Papillomavirus: $93
Typhoid/Oral: $30.00 Tetanus/Diphtheria (Td): $19.50
Yellow Fever: $85.25 Twinrix (Hep A & Hep B combined): $50.50
Menomune: $95.75 Malaria (Prescription Only): $39
Menactra: $106.50 Office Visit: $30

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