Friday, October 23 2020


Ins and outs of travel vaccinations

Update: February, 02/2020 - 23:01


Nurse Nguyễn Thiên Bảo.  Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice

By Nguyễn Thiên Bảo*

What are travel vaccinations?

Travelling to a different region or country can expose you to a multitude of diseases that your body is not prepared for. However, this does not mean that you have to cancel your travel plans just yet.

Travel vaccines, also called travel immunisations, are shots tourists should get before visiting some part of the world which help travellers to protect themselves from sicknesses. Vaccinations work by presenting the body to germs or parts of germs of the disease it will shield against. You can't get the disease from the vaccine because the viruses or bacteria are dead or severely weakened.

Travel vaccines are a safe, effective method to protect travellers (especially high-risk groups) from getting serious diseases.

Types of travel vaccinations

There are three types of vaccines every traveller should consider getting.

Routine vaccines

These are standard basic immunisations that are included in most national health programmes. For example, poliomyelitis, which still exists in developing countries. Not many adults are updated with their vaccinations, and some have never been immunised at all. Routine vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, pneumococcal, hepatitis B and H. influenza B vaccines.

Recommended vaccines

These are immunisations given to individuals who are travelling to places where there is a high risk of exposure or contracting a specific disease. These vaccines likewise prevent specific illnesses from spreading to another country. Most of these vaccines target diseases that are prevalent in crowded areas with poor sanitary conditions. Recommended vaccines include cholera, hepatitis A, rabies and typhoid fever vaccines, especially when travelling to Asia and South America.

Required vaccines

There are only three required vaccines, namely yellow fever, meningococcal and polio vaccines. Tourists are recommended to consult a travel health specialist prior to leaving. These are experts who can advise you on specific precautions and administer the necessary vaccinations for your trip. Ideally, you should schedule an appointment with your travel health specialist four to eight weeks prior to your departure since some immunisations need a series of vaccines (routine vaccination) given over several weeks to be completed.

It is important to remember that although immunisations decrease your risk of getting certain diseases, it is not always 100 per cent effective.

Type of travel vaccines travellers should get before travelling to Việt Nam

Hepatitis A

No matter where you eat or stay, you may unexpectedly get this disease as the hygienic conditions in Vietnamese are not taken seriously.

Hepatitis B

This disease spreads through infected blood and blood products, contaminated needles and medical instruments and sexual intercourse. The risk is especially increased for those who have severe disease (such as chronic liver/kidney disease).


Spread mainly through consumption of contaminated food and drink. Risk is higher where access to adequate sanitation and safe water is limited.


Spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin. Particularly dogs and related species, and also cats and bats. Especially when you travel to remote areas (where you may be unable to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite). Even when the pre-exposure vaccine has been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal or bat bite.

Type of routine vaccines for long-term travel in Việt Nam


Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.


Tdap is a combination of three vaccines that protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a disease caused by bacteria that affects the body's muscles and nerves.

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria that can cause the breathing tube to be blocked.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a cough illness that can last for weeks or months. Often thought of as a childhood disease, but anyone of any age can get pertussis


Chickenpox can be spread from people with shingles to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. This can happen through close contact with someone who has shingles.


People with flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.  Family Medical Practice

*Nguyễn Thiên Bảo is a registered nurse with a master’s in public health. He has over 20 years working within an ICU specialist capacity and participates in medical evacuations using both ground and air ambulance.

Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi at: 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình. Tel: (024) 3843 0748.  E:

FMP’s downtown HồChí Minh location is: Diamond Plaza, 34 LêDuẩn, District 1; 95 Thảo Điền, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E:

FMP Đà Nẵng is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E:




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