Which are the essential travel vaccinations you need for visiting countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand with kids? Dr. Michael Rodger of International Medical Clinic (IMC) gives suitcases&strollers his travel tips for the essential list of travel vaccinations for Southeast Asia and why you need them if you are traveling with kids.

What are Vaccinations?

Pathogens (viruses or bacteria) are microbes that cause disease. If a small amount of inactive pathogen is introduced into the body it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to fight off the disease. The immune system remembers the microbe and can defend the body against any live form of the microbe that it may encounter in the future. After a vaccination the person is said to be immune to the disease.

Common Travel Vaccinations for South East Asia

The recommended travel vaccinations you will need when you travel with kids will vary depending on which part of a country you are visiting, the season you are travelling, what you’ll be doing during your stay, how long you’ll be there and your age and health. There are huge variations even within countries. In Thailand, for example, visiting a five star resort in Koh Samui with kids is very different from a visit to a refugee camp on the Thai/Burmese border.

Many of the infectious diseases associated with less-developed countries are the result of poor sanitation which causes fecal contamination of the water and/or food supply chain. As a result, there is a certain core group of essential travel vaccinations that are almost universally recommended if you are travelling to Southeast Asia with kids. Here is a list but you should always consult a travel doctor before you depart to double check what’s best for your particular family holiday destination.

Hepatitis A
– a disease causing viral inflammation of the liver contracted from contaminated food or water. Two vaccines are given 6 to 12 months apart and immunity lasts for over 20 years.

Hepatitis B
– also a viral inflammation of the liver, although this disease is contracted through blood, blood products and bodily fluids. Modes of transmission include dirty needles, blood transfusions and sexual contact. It is highly infectious. A course of three vaccines over 6 months is required, followed by a blood test to check immunity (which is lifelong). A combined vaccine with Hepatitis A is also available.

– a bacterial infection transmitted via contaminated food and drink. The vaccine lasts 2 to 3 years.

Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis
– three bacterial infections that require a combination vaccine. This lasts for 10 years.

– a viral infection that causes paralysis. Adult booster vaccinations are advised if no booster was given in the previous 10 years. General side effects of polio vaccinations include localised redness and swelling around the injection site, transient fever, malaise and an upset stomach. However, fewer than 1 in 10 patients actually experience these.

Malaria –
malaria is carried by a mosquito-borne parasite. This potentially fatal disease is prevalent in many inland areas of Southeast Asia and has no effective preventative vaccine, although preventative tablets are available. Effective prevention of mosquito bites using repellents or nets is also advised.

Yellow Fever
– yellow fever is present primarily in Africa and South America and visitors to parts of these regions may require proof of yellow fever vaccination to re-enter their home country.

Additional Vaccinations –
For more remote locations in the region or for long-stay travellers, additional vaccinations may be required such as rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, and cholera.

The Practicalities

A consultation with a doctor is required before vaccinations or travel medications can be issued. Medical advice should be sought 4 to 6 weeks before travelling. For an extended trip, you should ideally have your travel vaccinations allow up to six months before departure. However, it is never too late to seek advice! Most vaccinations become fully effective after two weeks.

Other issues you should discuss with your travel doctor include food and water hygiene, mosquito repellents and preventative prescription medications, such as those for traveller’s diarrhea.

For more travel tips on travel medical FAQs, see the suitcases&strollers story here.

For more travel tips on emergency medical travel kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.

This story is sponsored by International Medical Clinic