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Vaccinations and Travel Immunizations for West Africa

vaccinations and immunizations for West Africa

We’re not going to lie, you may have to get poked a few times before your trip to West Africa. Some immunizations are required to enter certain West African countries, while others are simply recommended (and recommended should not be considered optional in this case).

In this post, we will tell you what you need to get before you travel, how much you can expect to spend and where you can get the required immunizations.

What immunizations do you need to travel in West Africa?

Let’s start with the basics. You need all of your routine vaccinations that you should already have as an adult. They are as follows:

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis – This vaccination is a 3-in-1 dose that requires a booster every ten years. Your health insurance most likely covers you on this one, along with many of the other routine vaccinations in this section.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) – This is a two-step vaccination (the two doses are administered one month apart) that provides lifelong immunity.
  • Varicella (chickenpox) – Another two dose vaccination that offers lifelong immunity. Of course, if you have ever contracted chickenpox as a child or otherwise, you already have immunity and you don’t need to get vaccinated.
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B – You can get both in the same vaccination. A booster is required every 20 years for Hep A and every 10 years for Hep B. A series of 3 injections is required for immunity.
  • Polio – Just one poke as a child and then one as an adult, and you will have lifelong immunity.
  • Meningitis (meningococcal disease) – While the overall risk is remote, meningitis outbreaks have occurred in West Africa before. You may already have this vaccination under your belt as part of an earlier requirement (it is often required before enrolling in university and many other organized activities.

All of your routine vaccinations will need to be written into a international vaccination certificate, which is a small, thin yellow notebook that keeps a log of all your vaccinations. You will show this notebook to border officials as you enter West African countries.

What about vaccinations that are not routine? Yes, there are a few of those, too:

  • Yellow Fever – Yellow Fever is increasingly rare in West Africa, thanks to widespread vaccination campaigns. You will need this vaccination to enter most countries in the region. It is good for ten years, and you can find it at any travel health clinic.
  • Typhoid – Typhoid can be found worldwide, but it is especially present in developing world countries. You can contract it through contaminated food or drink. The vaccine comes in two forms, an oral form and an injection. The oral form lasts for 5 years, while the injection requires a booster after only two years.
  • Rabies? – Regardless of whether you have had the rabies vaccination or not, you will still need additional injections if you have been bit by an animal. The rabies vaccination simply buys you a bit of extra time. It should be considered if you are traveling to rural areas and you plan on having close contact with animals.

Of course, you should have a proper travel health consultation at a travel health clinic to go over every vaccination and what it entails.

Where can you get these immunizations and how much do they cost?

Your general practitioner can take care of you when it comes to routine vaccinations. In many cases, your health insurance will cover the costs, too. Yellow Fever and Typhoid are rarely covered by health insurance, so you may need to pay for these out of pocket.

State or county health clinics may be considerably less expensive than private ones. Conduct an online search for your local health board and give them a call to see if any local clinics offer travel immunizations. If you run into a dead end, you may simply need to pay up at a private travel health clinic. If Typhoid and Yellow Fever is all you need, the costs should be manageable.

A few things to keep in mind

Many vaccinations take a week or two to become effective. If you get poked the day before you travel, don’t expect to be immune when you arrive at your destination.

It’s true that a vaccination can make you mildly ill, but it’s unlikely that anything radical will happen. In most cases, you will just have a sore arm for a day or two.

You can get multiple vaccinations at once. If you needed both your Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccinations, don’t hesitate to get them both at the same time.

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