Which vaccinations for Thailand?
First, I’m not a doctor – if I could afford lawyers, they would make me say that. I’m just a traveler that spent lots of time in Thailand.
Any travel doctor that you visit will always err on the side of caution — it is their responsibility — and will suggest lots of useless travel vaccinations. The bill for getting stuck in the arm is not cheap — but many travelers get frightened into purchasing all of the available Thailand vaccinations.
The most important thing is not to wait until the last minute to look into your Thailand vaccinations! Sometimes getting immunized requires several shots spaced over weeks, so you might not have time to finish all required shots before leaving.
Here are the most important Thailand vaccinations to receive:
Hepatitis A and B
Nasty stuff, there is no cure, and it will knock your liver full of holes faster than a Dublin pub crawl. Two to three shots required that are spaced over months; the vaccination is usually good for life if you spaced shots correctly. If you don’t have time to finish the series before leaving, don’t worry, you can usually get the third shot as a booster after you return. Some countries combine the two.
Tetanus / Diphtheria
Everyone knows this one, you can get it from a cut or wound received outdoors. There are lots of chances to cut yourself while traveling – rusty parts on boats, fences, nails on the ground, a sharp bolt on a tuk-tuk. Luckily, getting vaccinated only takes one TDaP combo shot in the arm; immunization is good for 10 years.
Yes, it will make your arm sore for a couple of days, but that beats watching your arm slowly decay from infection.
Optional Thailand Vaccinations:
(Make up your own mind)
The most common way to get Typhoid fever is from contaminated water. Before you go thinking that you are safe because you don’t drink the local water — think again. Restaurants and street food stalls wash their dishes and utensils in something, and I can guarantee that they don’t use bottled water.
Anyone traveling in developing countries should probably go ahead and get immunized against typhoid. The good news for Americans is that they can get 3 – 4 oral capsules taken at home every other day to become immunized — one less shot in the arm! People in the rest of the world still have to get the shots. The shot is good for 2 years; the capsule immunization is usually good for five years.
Japanese B Encephalitis (Skip it)
This is a nasty little virus delivered as a gift from mozzies that will make your brain swell. Japanese Encephalitis is mainly found in the countryside, so if you plan to stay in rural areas for long periods of time (i.e., doing volunteer work) go ahead and get this one.
This Thailand vaccination usually requires three very expensive injections before you go — most agree that the cost is not worth the protection. Even once vaccinated, the shots do not fully protect you and no one is sure how long protection lasts!
Rabies (No way)
Hordes of stray dogs and cats roam around Thailand, but most are friendly. About 300 people — not just travelers — die a year from rabid dog bites. The truth is that your chances of getting bitten are pretty low. Unless you plan to do a lot of animal handling (i.e., working in an animal a rescue) or have a habit of being bitten by stray dogs, don’t worry about getting your rabies vaccinations.
Even if you are unlucky enough to get bitten, your chances of survival are pretty good if you are treated immediately. If you are in the middle of nowhere and don’t receive treatment, your chances of survival are are absolutely zero.
Most people agree that rabies vaccinations are expensive and unnecessary for Thailand, however, you can get immunized with three expensive injections. Unfortunately, if you are bitten by an animal, doctors recommend that you take the injections again as a booster!
Yellow Fever (Definitely Not)
You do not need a Yellow Fever vaccination to go to Thailand; however, if you are arriving from a place with Yellow Fever problems — such as in South America or Africa — then you may be required to show a medical certificate with proof of your vaccination before you are allowed into the country!
If you end up getting a yellow fever vaccination for another country, make several copies of your vaccination paperwork and always carry them with you.
- Go read what the CDC says about vaccinations for Thailand.
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