A Shot in the Arm (Literally)

Trip Start May 24, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, May 16, 2009

As much as I've been lucky to travel in my life, I've never gotten any immunizations either through the fact that they weren't recommended, or I wasn't smart enough to see if they were recommended.  This trip is a bit different, and my fear of needles has made it the WORST part of our preparation, in my opinion. 

So for those of you looking to travel, if you want to know where to look for immunization recommendations, there are a number of resources you can use.  The CDC maintains a good website, you can check out their country-specific recommendations here.  The World Health Organization has a similar site which can be viewed here.

It's important for you to look into vaccinations as far in advance as possible, once you know where you're going.  A lot of the vaccines are supposed to be given weeks or months in advance.  Some, like Hepatitis A, will give you protection immediately, but they recommend you get your first dose at least a month before traveling (there is also a booster that you are supposed to get 6-months later). 

Once you figure out what you need, you have to find a place to get the shots/meds.  This is no time to slack on your research!  If I had gone to the first place that came to mind (The University of Texas health center) I would have spent around $300 or $400.  Instead, to date, I have spent about $110.  In my case, I saved the most money by going to the City/County Health Department, since I'm uninsured (though from what I understand, most health departments don't require any proof of being uninsured or underinsured).  In Travis County (where Austin is), they charge you $10 flat, regardless of the number of shots you get.  That's a pretty good deal.  Unfortunately, they don't offer everything I, or most travelers, need.  Below is a breakdown of what I got, and how much it cost.

Typhoid - This one I had to get at the UT clinic, and they give you two options.  You can take the pills (4 pills, one every other day on an empty stomach) or you can take the shot.  I opted for the pills for a few reasons: I hate shots, the pills were around $50 versus $60 for the shot, I've heard there are some rough side effects for the shot, and the pills are effective for around 5 years versus 2 years for the shot.

Hepatitis A - This I got at the health department.  You should get the first one at least one month before your trip, but even if it's just a week before, it works better than nothing.  This one at UT cost around $50.

Meningococal - I had to almost beg the health department to give me this shot, as 22 year olds generally don't need it.  I had to tell them with prompting from the receptionist (wink wink) that I was traveling with a large group.  The retail on this shot at UT was around $150. 

Polio - Polio was another shot not available at the health department.  Most adults don't need a polio booster, since we all received them as children, but it is recommended by the CDC and WHO for the countries we're visiting.  I surely don't want to end up being paralyzed because I didn't take the shot.  This cost me around $45 at UT.

Tetanus/Diptheria (TDAP) - The feared tetanus shot is the one that hurts for a few days.  You are supposed to get a booster every 10 years.  I had one in 2003, but opted to get another one since it was still only $10 regardless of how many I got, and because they said it might be good in case it is waning in its effectiveness.  No harm done by getting it anyway.

So that's the deal.  There are plenty of clinics, even travel clinics, that will be able to provide you with immunizations, but it can get really expensive.  I have been joking with people saying that the travel prep costs are more expensive than the trip itself!  Just kidding of course, but it does get expensive. 
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