One of the first things friends and family say when you tell them about long term travel, especially to places like India and Vietnam, is something along the lines of; “is it safe?” or “what vaccinations do you need to visit there?”. This may be the first time you’ve even thought about it, so a quick google search of ‘what vaccinations do you need for India?’ and you ended up right here! Whilst it might seem complicated, it really doesn’t need to be. Before I begin, I strongly suggest you do your own research around the matter (gov.uk is a good starting point) and use what you find, along with my experiences to educate yourself properly. N.B – costs are based on the UK and my personal experience.
Regardless of where you are from, a trip to India throws up all sorts of issues that you need to be aware of. Sure you can do your best to avoid some of them, but others are going to happen whether you like it or not. Vaccinations can offer you some immunity, but they don’t all mean you are 100% protected and knowing what level of protection each gives you is key to ensuring you remain safe on your travels. Below I will go over each vaccination I have received, considered and researched in the last few weeks as I build up to my India travels. Here is my what vaccinations do you need for India list!
The first vaccine on my ‘what vaccinations do you need for India’ list is Diphtheria, Polio & Tetanus (DPT). This is a 3-in-1 jab, that is administered in a single shot – good news for the needle-fearing among us. In the UK it is recommended that you have a booster for DPT in your teenage years, this should be done by your school. In my case, I needed to have this done as it wasn’t on my medical records. So there goes vaccine number 1. Here is some more information on the three diseases covered in this jab:
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial disease that usually begins with a sore throat and can quickly develop to cause problems with breathing. It can damage the heart and nervous system, and can kill. Diphtheria can be spread by close contact with an infected person.
Tetanus is a painful disease that affects the muscles and can cause severe breathing problems. It is caused by the tetanus toxin released by bacteria that are found in soil and manure. The bacteria can get into the body through cuts or burns. Tetanus can kill.
Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can permanently paralyse the muscles in the arms and legs. If it affects the chest muscles, it can be fatal.
I found this one caused the most discomfort afterwards (sorry to break it to you). I was left with a heavy arm for a couple of days, but apart from the felt fine. It’s worth noting that sometimes (1 in 100), people can develop a high fever, I was one of the lucky 99! There are a couple of ways to have this vaccine; through a single jab, or through 3 capsules. If you’re already in having other jabs I highly recommend having this one lumped in too,
Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs. Without prompt treatment, it can cause serious complications and can be fatal.
I know what you’re thinking. Why has he listed Hepatitis B as a free vaccine? Everyone know you have to pay for that in the UK, right? Well yes and no. I was very lucky to have a great nurse handle my travel vaccinations for me. She was keen to ensure I left with the correct level of protection and did her utmost to help me along the way, that included informing me of an NHS loophole that allows you to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine for free. Yes. Totally, complete, free.
If you were to go and have these two vaccines separately, you would receive Hep A for free and be required to pay for each of the 3 jabs required for Hep B. Now as you can see I have listed the two together, that’s because that is how I received them. It is this that allows you to get Hepatitis B for free, as they surgeries are currently not allowed to charge for Hepatitis A vaccines. Win, win. If money is an issue, which it most probably is as you’ll be saving for your trip! I highly recommend asking if this is something you can have.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that’s spread in the poo of an infected person.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus that’s spread through blood and body fluids.
I am going to start this section by letting you know that I haven’t had. Maybe I am being stupid, naive even, but the upfront costs I’ve been quoted are quite frankly ridiculous (I’ve been quoted £105 per vaccine) – especially when you consider that the vaccine does not offer you full immunity! It is worth noting that 434 people died from rabies in India between 1994 and 2015, that’s a lot of people.
One big factor in my decision, was the fact that my travel plans don’t involve being more than 24 hours away from medical care. If I planned on heading to the Everest base camp, where I’d be days away from reactive care, I would be much more likely to have got the course. The fact that I’ll be travelling with Scott also made the decision easier. Knowing that I have a friend who will look after me should something go wrong is extremely reassuring and one of the bonuses to travelling with someone else.
This is not a recommendation not to get a rabies vaccine before you go. You need to look at where you are travelling, how long for and then make you’re own decision. I will be investigating other places I can get the rabies jab for a better price before I go and will update if I do end up getting it.
Rabies is a very serious viral infection that targets the brain and nervous system. You can catch rabies if you are bitten by an infected animal and haven’t been vaccinated.
This one follows much of what I mentioned with rabies, in that the vaccine is rather expensive. With both of these vaccinations I would probably have considered them much more strongly had the nurse pushed them more. While she has advised me of other places I can get it done, albeit for slightly cheaper, she hasn’t made me feel like it should be an absolute priority for me. I am not saying this is wrong or right, it’s just the way I have taken on board her advice.
Again, I still have time to have this vaccination course before I leave. So that is a decision I am yet to make. If you have any feedback or advice for me on this I’d love to know, please get in touch!
Japanese encephalitis is a type of viral brain infection that’s spread through mosquito bites. It’s most common in rural areas throughout South East Asia, the Pacific islands and the Far East, but is very rare in travelers.
Last but definitely not least, is malaria. If you know anything about this disease, it should be that there is no vaccination against it – so why is it on the list? While we cannot take one single preventative measure against malaria, you can take antimalarials to prevent and treat the disease. So let’s go over them in a little more details.
There are a few different types of antimalarial on the market, each with it’s own places of use – that is to say that not all antimalarials will be effective against all strains of malaria. For India you have a few options; Malarone, Mefloquine and Doxycycline. They all have their own potential side effects and you will need to liaise with a trained health professional, who will be able to advise which option is best for you when asking what vaccinations do you need for India.
Personally, I am likely going to opt for Doxycycline or Mefloquine. While the first is the cheapest, it does mention sun sensitivity as an issue (I am already relatively fair skinned!). The later, had the benefit of only only being one tablet a week, but has the potential to cause psychological issues. Either way, I will be taking antimalarials with me, and taking them religiously. I’ll also be wearing long clothing, using DEET and sleeping under a mosquito net – a more proactive than reactive approach with this one.
Malaria is a serious tropical disease spread by mosquitoes. If it isn’t diagnosed and treated promptly, it can be fatal.
Hopefully this has gone some way to help answering the question of what vaccinations do you need for India travel.
If you found this post useful, please let me know below. Likewise, if you have a different opinion to me, please let me know! It would be great to hear from people who have been there and done it all.