For most of us, vaccines were simply a normal part of growing up, and you probably didn’t think much of it at the time. The truth is those jabs often tell a much bigger (and better) story. Take Australia’s HPV vaccination program, which is leading the way in preventing cervical cancer, with over 9 million doses being administered to date.
While this program is relatively new, immunisation is not. You probably have distant memories of lining up with your classmates for dreaded shots when you were in school. But are you still protected? Read on to find out which vaccines you may need a booster for, or a new shot altogether (especially if you’re about to embark on an overseas adventure).
Which vaccines do I need?
Immunising yourself and your children is important to protect you and your family, and when enough people are immunised this helps to protect the whole community as well.
You should have received vaccines against polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox at school, but a booster may be required. If you’re unsure what you’ve been vaccinated against, your doctor can check with a simple blood test.
Consider if and when you might need any of the following vaccinations:
- Influenza: The vaccine is different each year, and contains the latest, most common strains of the virus. Anyone can get the flu shot, but if you’re over 65, pregnant, breastfeeding, have a weakened immune system or suffer from diabetes, lung or kidney conditions, you may be at higher risk so should consider protecting yourself.
- Diptheria and tetanus: You’ll be due for a diptheria/tetanus booster around the age of 50 if you haven’t had one in the last ten years, or if you’re travelling to certain countries where tetanus is not controlled.
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine: You should have been vaccinated as a child with the MMR vaccine but if you weren’t it’s important you get it as an adult. If you’re a woman, you should avoid falling pregnant for 28 days after your vaccination.
- Whooping cough: Immunity to whooping cough decreases with time so it’s important to have all the recommended booster injections — particularly if you have or care for young children.
- Typhoid: You can catch typhoid by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. It’s a particular risk when travelling to certain developing countries including India, Southeast Asian countries and Papua New Guinea. A vaccination before you go is highly recommended.
- Rabies: People at risk of the rabies infection include anyone travelling to and staying for more than a month in places where rabies is present or those who work with certain wildlife, such as bats.
As always, your doctor is a good place to start to get personalised advice about which vaccines or boosters you might need.
What vaccines do I need for travel?
Here in Australia, we are safe from many infectious diseases. However once you head overseas, it can be a different story. Risk while travelling is highest for pregnant women, babies and children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. Depending on your destination, there may also be mandatory requirements for entering certain countries.
A quick visit to your GP or a specialist travel health centre is the first step. Find out if you need vaccines for diseases such as:
- Hepatitis A and typhoid – especially for countries where bottled water is recommended
- Hepatitis B
- Tetanus – particularly for travel to developing countries
- Yellow fever – proof of yellow fever vaccine is required for entry to some parts of Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbean
- Meningococcal disease
- Japanese encephalitis.
- Measles, mumps, rubella
How long before travel do I need my vaccines?
As soon as you plan to travel overseas, you should visit your doctor to discuss which vaccinations you need. Make sure you see your GP at least six weeks before you leave, as some vaccines require more than one dose and you may need several different vaccinations before you leave.
Whether you’re embarking on an overseas adventure or just looking to keep yourself and your family safe, staying up to date with immunisations is one healthy habit worth adopting. Every person’s needs are different, so always seek professional advice to make sure you are choosing the right options, at the right time in your life.