More than 60 million Americans travel abroad each year. And yet, many individuals forget to do one of the most important things for their trip: check their vaccine schedule and get additional immunizations.
Of the 60 million American travelers, many visit industrialized countries where the risk of exposure to disease is no greater than it is here in the U.S. But, a number of travelers visit areas with dangerous infectious diseases that are extremely rare in the U.S. Travel vaccines should be taken to ensure good health, both while on the trip and upon return.
The CDC categorizes travel vaccines into three categories. Routine vaccinations include all pediatric and adult vaccines recommended to protect individuals here in the U.S. Recommended immunizations include vaccines that could protect against diseases that are present in other countries, but are not typically covered by routine vaccinations. These vary by country, but a complete list is available through the CDC. Finally, there are required immunizations. These vaccines are as important as your passport for entry into specific countries. The International Health Regulations currently only requires two vaccines: the yellow fever vaccine for travel to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America and the meningococcal vaccination for travel to Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj.
Most international travelers are aware of the required immunizations. However, many travelers forget to check that their routine vaccinations are updated and fail to receive vaccinations to prevent region-specific infectious diseases. Further, many travelers don’t realize that vaccines need to be given four to six weeks ahead of travel, and in some cases require multiple doses, to ensure effectiveness.
Physicians can serve as an educator and point of contact for their patients traveling abroad. By implementing three simple, but meaningful tactics, physicians can help their patients truly be prepared for their adventure:
- Ask – When conducting a routine visit, physicians can help ensure future health by recommending routine vaccinations and asking whether they have any trips planned for the next 12 months. By engaging in a dialogue, patients will be more likely to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccination schedule, and better prepared for any overseas travel.
- Consult – Some vaccines recommended for international travel are uncommon in the U.S.; the CDC is a valuable resource to help you determine the appropriate vaccinations for your patients. They provide a full, updated list of the recommended vaccines for every region across the world. The CDC can also help provide government approved travel clinics for patient referrals.
- Partner – Join a vaccine buying group for access to favorably priced travel vaccines. Most insurance companies do not provide coverage for travel vaccines, and prices of these vaccines can cost as much as $150 or more per dose, depending on the disease. By partnering with a vaccine buying group, you can receive the lowest pricing for vaccines to benefit both your practice and the patient.
So, the next time your patient proudly mentions an upcoming trip overseas, be sure to discuss the importance of being up-to-date on their standard vaccines as well as review additional immunizations that may be required.