Travel vaccinations: the unexpected costs of travelling

If you spend most of your life in relatively disease-free countries like Australia, it’s easy to forget that severe, infectious diseases are an everyday reality for many people in the world. After the euphoria of planning a holiday that’s somewhat off the beaten path, you realise that “off the beaten path” also means “into disease-prone areas”.

When planning any trip, there are two things you don’t want to happen:

  1. Paying unexpected, significant costs
  2. Falling ill – even if you avoid anything life-threatening, any form of illness will take away from your enjoyment and comfort

Planning for the costs of vaccinations and taking these in time for your travel will hopefully help reduce the impact of both.

This post is focussing on travel to African countries such as Tanzania, as that’s the trip coming up for us. From the charts we observed at the travel clinic, most of these should be applicable to South American and Southeast Asian countries, but it should go without saying that you should seek tailored, medical advice for your particular situation.

We called a bunch of clinics and found that their pricing was very similar, and had a consultation fee that in some cases would be bulk billed. Hopefully the table below helps you get a feel for the prices you might be paying if seeking vaccinations in Melbourne, Victoria.

Vaccination Comments Price we paid
Yellow Fever This is the only vaccination you are required to have proof of upon entry to Tanzania. We’ve read advice suggesting that although it isn’t technically a huge risk in Tanzania any more, border authorities will still ask for your Yellow Fever Certificate. We didn’t want to risk that happening. Only a registered travel clinic can administer this vaccine and provide you with the certificate. This vaccination is valid for 10 years, although the nurse told us that there are differing opinions that the vaccination is valid for life. Regardless, your certificate will only be valid for 10 years. $120
Tetanus If you went to high school in Victoria, you may have received the Adolescent Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (Whooping Cough) immunisation in Year 10. This is valid for 10 years. It has certainly been more than 10 years since I was in year 10, so I had to get this one again. $50
Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B If you haven’t had these as a child, including the booster, then it is recommended that you get the vaccinations. With Hep A, if you have a second dose 6 months later, you’ll be vaccinated for life. $80 for Hep A only, $90 for a combined Hep A and Hep B.
Typhoid There were 2 options for the typhoid vaccination. One was an injection, and the other was 4 tablets to be taken on alternating days, one hour before eating. We were told that the tablet form was slightly cheaper. Knowing that I had 3 vaccinations already up my sleeve, guess which option I chose. This vaccination lasts for 5 years. $60 for the tablets
Malaria We were presented with 2 options: Doxycycline and Malarone. Both are tablets that you take on a daily basis and for some period before and after being in a malaria zone. I had taken Doxycycline in the past and suffered from the side effects, so I didn’t want to risk it on our trip. Malarone is reported to have little to no side effects and you also don’t have to take it for as long before and after. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, everything comes with its price. $80 per 12 tablets. We needed 24 tablets at a minimum so that was a hefty $160. Doxycycline is significantly cheaper.

On top of this, the nurse also suggested other vaccinations that we didn’t need or want to get on the day: cholera, flu and rabies. I had already received a flu shot earlier in the year, cholera couldn’t be administered at the same time as typhoid, and we took a calculated risk with the rabies vaccination.

I was also fortunate that my private health insurance covered some of the costs, and I was able to claim benefits of around $215. This certainly lessened the blow, but you still need to be out of pocket a couple of hundred. Makes me want to make the most of these vaccines and travel to other interesting places. Patagonia 2015 anyone? 😉

As I mentioned above, Yellow Fever is the only vaccine you may be required to have. The others are technically optional, so it’s really up to you to weigh up the cost and benefit of spending the money.

Hope this helps!

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