Oct 10, 2011

Vaccinations: Our Visit with Rebecca

Brenton and I have done our research. We knew which vaccinations we wanted for the trip, what medications we want to bring and what medical supplies we'd like to take for an emergency.

About a week ago, we finally made the appointment to get our immunizations. I had spent a couple of days calling different clinics and doctor's offices to find the best prices…immunizations aren't cheap.

We decided on a clinic in town and called to make the appointment. I was initially annoyed at the fact that they insist you schedule a "travel consultation" and don't just let you walk in, get the shots you request, and go. I can say now, I am so happy we had the opportunity to meet and talk with Rebecca, our travel nurse.

It only took a minute to know that I had been wrong about this "travel consultation." Rebecca was so interested and excited about our trip. If all she had done was listen so excitedly to our plans, I would have still left happy. But Rebecca gave such good insight and advice for our trip and not just on the immunizations, she also addressed other medications and medical supplies.

As Brenton has mentioned in a previous post, we already have several of the required and suggested vaccinations because we both work in healthcare. All we had to get from Rebecca were Yellow Fever and Typhoid. We got the Yellow Fever shot in the office and decided on the oral Typhoid vaccination which is taken over a week's span. The oral vaccination lasts 3-5 years as opposed to the shot, which lasts 2 years. Right now we have the Typhoid pills sitting in our fridge. The only reason we're holding off on taking the pills now is cause there's a small chance they can cause you to feel a little sick (upset stomach) and neither one of us wants to have to take a day off work for that so we're going to take it the first week of January when we don't have to worry about work.

Brenton and I both need to get a Pertussis shot and I still need to get Hepatitis A. I dropped the ball on that one a little bit. The Hep A is actually two shots taken six months apart. Well, I obviously can't get both before we leave. I will be getting the first shot (along with both of us getting the Pertussis) right before we leave. The first shot has been shown to give excellent protection for at least a year. This way, I will be safe and I can get the second shot when we come back or if we decide to continue on after a year, I'll just find somewhere to get the shot down south.

As I mentioned, Rebecca didn't just give us our immunizations. She e-mailed us a ton of information on each country in Central and South America, including a list of clinics and hospitals. She also discussed other medications (antibiotics) and supplies (IVs) that we want to take with us. She gave us some great advice and said that once we know exactly what we want, to send her and e-mail and she'll help us to arrange it all….get prescriptions, letters for carrying sharps and prescriptions, etc. She also told us to feel free to contact her at any time on our trip if we have questions or need help finding a good place to get medical help if we ever need it.

I couldn't believe how helpful this visit was. I just might have a new career idea for when we get back from our trip!

Here is a summary of what vaccinations are necessary:
Hepatitis A - 2 shots over 6 months
Hepatitis B - 3 shots over 6 months
Typhoid Fever - 1 shot
Yellow Fever - oral prophylaxis (lasts 3-5 years) or one shot (lasts 2 years)
Rabies - 3 shots, about $200 each! Not required, but recommended
record of MMR vaccination in the past (measles, mumps, rubella)
record of (TdaP) Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis vaccinations in the past
recent Tetanus shot
recent TB test

*It's important to get a "Yellow Card" from the World Health Organization. This becomes your master copy of all of your vaccinations and it's written in several languages.  This is what is required to be carried by you, supposedly at all times.  We were told a story about someone who was stopped on a bus in the Amazon, and almost forced by the military to get a Yellow Fever shot! Luckily they let him retrieve his W.H.O. Yellow Card from the backpack stowed on top of the bus and he avoided being vaccinated twice!