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What vaccinations do I need for Malaysia?

Travel vaccination: Hospital: Female Assistant Preparing Syringe For Injection

When you’re planning a holiday, vaccinations can be easy to forget. They fit into the same category as travel insurance: things you hopefully won’t need, but should definitely have. The sub-tropical heat of South East Asia can present a range of diseases that you’ll want to be protected against if you’re travelling to Malaysia.

To help you out, we’ve put together this short list of the most relevant diseases to immunise against.

Remember this isn’t a shopping list of vaccinations to get, as you might not need all of them; consider your travel plans and which ones may be relevant first. Always talk to your GP about your plans and immunisation history before proceeding with the vaccinations listed below.

Background immunisations

Before travelling, it’s always wise to make sure that you’re up to date on the routine vaccinations that anyone living in Australia should have already. These include:

  • Tetanus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that is generally contracted through infected cuts or breaks in the skin. Adults should get a tetanus booster every ten years.
  • Diphtheria. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that inflames the nose, throat and windpipe, and can spread to other areas of the body if not treated. Diphtheria is usually included with a tetanus vaccination in Australia.
  • Pertussis. Pertussis is more commonly known as Whooping Cough and is most dangerous to infants and young children. Pertussis immunisation is generally included with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccination.
  • Influenza. ‘‘Flu shots’, as they’re more commonly known, are now considered part of your routine vaccinations. You’ll need to update them every year, and at-risk groups such as the elderly, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders and pregnant women may qualify for a free vaccination.

Vaccinations commonly recommended for Malaysia

  • Hepatitis A. ‘Hep A’ is a viral infection, usually acquired through eating contaminated food and drink, or sometimes through unprotected sexual contact. While it’s unlikely to give you more than a bad fever for a week or two, it’s a disease worth avoiding.
  • Hepatitis B. ‘Hep B’ is also a viral infection that attacks the liver, and is spread through blood or bodily fluids. On a holiday in South East Asia, you’ll want to be cautious about this if you plan on getting a tattoo or piercing, or if you’re planning on having acupuncture therapy. Hepatitis B infections are more severe than Hepatitis A, and both viruses require a separate immunisation. Luckily, many vaccinations will combine A and B in the one shot for you.
  • Typhoid. Typhoid is caused by bacterial contamination of food and drink, and is more common in rural areas without the standards of sanitation that are usually found in cities. Getting a typhoid vaccination will protect you for up to three years, and should be strongly considered if you’re planning on spending time on farms, plantations or in rural villages.
  • Rabies. Rabies is a viral infection of the central nervous system, and there’s no known cure. Rabies has been practically eliminated in Australia, and fortunately there’s a vaccine for it if you’re travelling overseas. If you’re planning on spending a lot of time around animals, a rabies shot is definitely worth getting.
  • Malaria. Malaria is spread by mosquitos, but the malaria risk in Malaysia and most other South East Asian countries is generally confined to specific, isolated rural areas. If you’re planning on spending a lot of time outside in rural areas, you should consider taking a course of malaria preventative medication. There’s a few options available – talk to your GP about which is best for you.
  • Japanese Encephalitis. This is quite a rare disease, and vaccination is recommended if you plan on spending more than four weeks in rural areas. Like Malaria, JE is spread via mosquitoes, and is most common in areas where pigs are farmed.

Keep in mind that this is by no means a complete list of vaccinations you should consider. Talk to your GP, or consider consulting a specialist travel doctor about what vaccinations you should get before travelling to Malaysia.

Remember to always make sure you’ve got a good travel insurance policy in case you need to deal with sickness or injury on your holiday.

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