volunteers feeding a baby

What vaccinations to get for volunteer abroad

When you decide to volunteer abroad, there are certain precautions you should take to ensure that your experience goes smoothly. Remember, you'll be traveling to a new country and will be exposed to new elements, diseases, and viruses. It's extremely important that you examine what vaccinations to get for volunteer abroad in the country you've chosen, and to get them all before leaving for your trip.

Getting vaccinations will help protect your health during your time abroad, and is an essential step in volunteer abroad preparation. The following article will attempt to answer some of the most common questions asked about vaccinations for volunteering abroad. Below you will also find a brief checklist of things you should consider and take into account when thinking about vaccinations.

Vaccination Checklist:

  • Make sure to schedule a visit to your doctor or healthcare provider
  • Make sure you know which vaccinations are needed for your country
  • Do you have any preexisting diseases that may make you susceptible to new diseases?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you traveling with infants or children?
  • Visit CDC Travel Health site for access to more great resources for international travelers

Do I really need to get vaccinations?

Yes, it's extremely important to protect yourself against any diseases you may face when traveling, especially if you will be traveling to a developing country. Your body and immune system will be introduced to many new things – new water, new foods, new bugs and insects, new diseases, and more. Vaccinations are your way of shielding yourself against as many potentially harmful foreign elements that your body may face while abroad.

What vaccinations to get for volunteer abroad depends on where you are traveling, what season you are traveling in, what the current state of your health is, what sort of work you'll be doing abroad (and who/what you'll be constantly in contact with), and your past vaccination history.

What vaccinations do I need?

As mentioned above, what vaccinations to get for volunteer abroad depends on where you are traveling, what season you are traveling in, what the current state of your health is, what sort of work you'll be doing abroad (and who/what you'll be constantly in contact with), and your past vaccination history.

It’s possible that you received some necessary vaccinations as a child, but it’s important to discuss with your doctor whether an additional dose is necessary to keep your body up-to-date while abroad. Your body should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations such as Td (tetanus/diphtheria) and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). Depending on your circumstances, however, additional vaccinations such as typhoidJapanese Encephalitisrabiespoliomeningococcal meningitis, or Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B may be needed.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists recommended vaccinations for each country online: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

For example:

Asia

For those volunteering in Asia, the CDC recommend routine vaccines such as MMR, chickenpox, and the flu shot. Travelers are also encouraged to get vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Depending on where you will be stationed and what the living/working conditions will be, you may also need vaccinations for Malaria, Rabies, Polio, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis B, and Japanese Encephalitis.

Here are some quick links about vaccines for volunteering in Asia:

Africa

If you're traveling to Africa, there are many things you need to watch out for. Vaccinations are especially important, and you will most likely need more than the basic types of vaccinations. Many regions of Africa still remain underdeveloped, meaning food and water contamination, and contact with animals and animal diseases, can be a big problem for volunteers. If you are traveling to countries such as Kenya, Ghana, or Uganda, you will need vaccinations for Rabies, Malaria, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, and Yellow Fever, in addition to your routine vaccinations.

Here are some quick links about vaccines for volunteering in Africa:

Latin America

Traveling to Latin America should be generally safe for volunteers. You most likely won't need more than the standard set of vaccines (MMR, chickenpox, flu, hepatitis A, typhoid).

Here are some quick links about vaccines for volunteering in Latin America:

The best thing you can do is speak to your doctor about your specific case and determine which vaccinations are necessary for you.

How much do vaccinations cost?

The cost of vaccinations varies depending on healthcare provider, clinic prices, type of vaccine needed, and more. The first thing you will want to do is check if your health insurance covers travel vaccinations. Even if it does, you may still need to pay a $10-$40 co-pay. If you are not covered, below you will find a general outline of costs. You can read more about vaccine costs at: http://health.costhelper.com/travel-vaccinations.html

  • Initial consultation fees at a clinic range from $15 to $100
  • There is sometimes a shot administration fee that ranges from $10 to $20 per shot
  • Cost of vaccines can range from less than $10 per dose to $150 or more per dose, depending on the disease. Some vaccinations require as many as three shots
  • Travel vaccinations may cost less than $50 for one routine booster shot, or up to $1000 or more for several vaccinations, especially those that require multiple shots, such as rabies or Japanese Encephalitis

If your health insurance does that cover vaccinations, you can visit Passport Health, the largest provider of travel medical services in the U.S., with over 250 clinics nationwide. They offer travel consultations and travel vaccines, so call them for additional information on vaccination prices.

How far in advance do I need to get vaccinated?

You should arrange to get vaccinated at least 4-6 weeks before traveling abroad. Some vaccinations require a series of doses that need to be taken in certain intervals of time. Planning ahead and receiving your vaccinations 4-6 weeks before departure ensures that the vaccines have had enough time to take effect.