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An Expert Weighs in on Travel Vaccinations

Are you forgoing a trip to the US because of the state of the Canadian dollar? There’s a good chance you’re passing on the warm weather states and planning a trip instead to Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean this year. But before you go, it’s worth taking note of what travel vaccinations you should have and what timelines you should work within.

In speaking with Amani Chehade, a Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacist, Associate Store owner and expert on travel vaccinations, I am happy to share the following travel advice.

Are pharmacists able to offer travel consultations?

Yes. In fact you no longer have to go to a doctor run travel clinic. Pharmacists can legally provide travel consultations and make recommendations with regards to vaccines and prescriptions. If your travel plans are routine and uncomplicated you can do this as a walk-in but if you’re planning to travel to Africa for instance, you should pre-book an appointment.

Pharmacists are licensed to provide and inject the vaccines you need for travel.

An Expert Weighs in on Travel Vaccinations
Photo credit: NHS Employers on Flickr

What travel vaccinations are recommended if you’re going to Mexico, Cuba or the Caribbean?

Armani did tell me that the risk among all the countries is about the same so she recommends getting the following vaccinations.

Tetanus – Lockjaw is another name for this awful disease. It’s entirely preventable with a tetanus shot that’s good for 10 years. You should keep it current even if you never travel.

Hepatitis A – This is not a routine vaccination but one that is recommended especially when you’re travelling to areas with poor sanitation. Two doses of the vaccine provide coverage for 15 years. Hepatitis A is transmitted through food and water that’s usually been contaminated with fecal matter.

Hepatitis B – Occurring worldwide through exposure to infected blood and body fluids, hepatitis B is highly preventable. Three doses of vaccine are required at one and six months after the first dose.

Typhoid – This disease is caused by bacteria present in countries with poor sanitation. The typhoid vaccine can be done as a shot – at least two weeks before travel or by mouth, with four doses needed every second day, at least a week before travel.

Dukarol – Recommended but not required, this vaccine is intended to help prevent traveller’s diarrhea before it starts but does not help if you already have traveller’s diarrhea. It is taken orally with two doses needed – taken at least a week apart and a minimum of one week before you plan to travel.

Vivaxin – If you need hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines you can take them together as one vaccine – vivaxin.

Rabies – Fortunately not every traveller to Mexico, Cuba or the Caribbean needs a rabies vaccination. But if you’re going off the beaten path – for instance biking in a remote part of Cuba or Mexico where you could get bitten by a dog with rabies – then you should plan on getting the rabies vaccine.

It’s done over three doses. Boosters are needed every one to two years. I asked why not wait until you’re bitten to get a vaccine but the problem may be, especially in remote places, that the vaccine you need after a bite is not readily available. And you need it within 48 hours.

Do you need yellow fever or malaria protection for Mexico, Cuba or the Caribbean?

There is no risk of either disease in these countries.

How far in advance should you get your travel vaccines?

Ideally plan four to six weeks in advance of when you plan to travel. Some vaccines like hepatitis A and B require more than one dose. Dukoral requires two separate doses one week apart – with the final dose taken a minimum of a week before the trip.

You can get multiple vaccination shots on the same day.

Do any of the recommended shots require live vaccines?

Dukoral – used to prevent traveller’s diarrhea is the only live vaccine.

How much do travel vaccines cost?

Some vaccines are part of your health care plan like tetanus whereas others like typhoid and rabies are out of pocket expenses. Some private insurance companies will cover some of the costs. Rabies in particular is expensive and can cost over $200/dose with three doses needed.

Are there any prescription medicines you should take with you?

It is recommended that you carry Azithromycin – an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections like skin, ear or respiratory infections. You’d only take it if needed.

An Expert Weighs in on Travel Vaccinations
Typhoid is definitely a disease you want to avoid on your travels

Further reading on travel in Mexico

Thank you to Amani Chehade for answering my questions and to Shopper’s Drug Mart for sponsoring this post.





Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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