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Living Abroad: A Guide to Vaccinations

Quite often a move overseas involves living in an area that has a greater risk of infectious diseases or coming into contact with illnesses that are not present in your native home. As such it is crucial that you ensure you are immunized against any potential diseases that you will be exposed to and that you take all the necessary precautions to protect your own health and that of your family.


What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations, or immunizations as they are also called, are shots that people living or traveling abroad can have in advance of visiting areas of the world that pose a threat of serious illness. The vaccination works by introducing the body to a weakened form of the germ or part of the disease that you need protection from. The body responds by generating the antibodies that are needed to protect you from that particular condition and you are therefore covered in the event that you are exposed to the disease in the future.

There are generally two types of vaccinations: Recommended vaccinations and required vaccinations. While some are more optional than others, it is advisable that you have every vaccination recommended to cover your stay abroad.


What type of vaccinations will I need?

The vaccinations that you will need will vary according to where in the world you are going to live. Some of the common immunizations that are required include the following:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
  • Yellow Fever

A great place to find full details of recommended and required vaccinations for destinations throughout the world is the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers: http://www.iamat.org/pdf/world_immunization_chart.pdf


How will I know which vaccinations I need?

The vaccinations that you will require will vary according to a whole host of factors, including the following:

  • Your risk of exposure to diseases in the countries to be visited
  • Your age, current health status, and vaccination history
  • The presence of additional individual risk factors, such as if you are pregnant, have pre-existing cardiovascular disease, or have a condition that might weaken your immune system, such as cancer
  • Reactions to previous vaccine doses and your allergy history (including medication allergies)
  • The risk of infecting others
  • Length of stay

Vaccinations: A Mini-checklist

1) Consult a medical travel expert at least 6-8 weeks before your expected move abroad to identify which vaccinations you need, and when.
2) Create a plan of the immunizations you require and book appointments as required.
3) Keep a record of the vaccinations that you have had.
4) Some schools, border controls and employers may require a formal letter or doctor’s report that confirms that certain vaccinations have been administered. Find out what the requirements are in advance and ensure that you secure the appropriate paperwork.
5) Don’t forget to ensure that expat insurance is in place immediately from day one of your stay abroad so that you can be assured of health coverage.

If you’re moving abroad and need comprehensive information on the health risks associated with living in your chosen destination, check out our expat guides. They contain everything you need to know about life in cities throughout the world and will arm you with all the information you need to enjoy a healthy and happy life abroad.

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