Travel Immunizations for India

Traveling to India? What immunizations do I need?

Travelling is SO exciting. You’ve booked your flights and accommodations, scouted out some amazing sites and activities, perhaps your bags are already packed weeks in advance (more like months for me!). While we patiently wait for our departure date to come, it’s also important to tend to the not so exciting stuff. Yes, travel immunizations and medications.

Let me be honest here. I hate needles, I hate taking medication, but I’m very risk adverse when it comes to my physical health. The thought of having to go to a health clinic (or hospital, yikes!) in a foreign place with language barriers is the last thing on my mind. So if I can bring myself to a travel clinic to poke my arm a few times, I think you can too!

When should I get my travel immunizations?

With most travel immunizations, it’s best to visit a travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks before your departure. Of course, if you’re leaving in less than 6 weeks, it is still useful to visit a clinic since there are some vaccines or medications you can get just before you leave.

Does insurance cover travel immunizations?

In Ontario, Canada, visits to a travel clinic and immunizations are not covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). If you have an insurance plan from your employer, you may want to check to see what your coverage entails.

Since travel vaccines are not covered by OHIP, the prices are determined by the private clinic and may vary. The prices I listed below are prices I was charged at Passport Health. The cost of all immunizations and medications were surprisingly expensive! Of course, you do not have to get immunized for everything they suggest, but ask them what the top priorities are and get those. As for the breakdown of cost, I’ll explain this in detail later in this post.

Where do I find a travel clinic?

I did a quick Google search on ‘travel clinics’ and went with the one with the highest rating in my area – Passport Health. I thought they were pretty good, even though I really have no other travel clinic experience to compare them against. If there are ones you highly recommend, let me know and I’ll visit them next time I need to travel!

Many years ago, I visited a walk-in clinic to get travel immunizations for my trip to Costa Rica. The experience was definitely not as thorough as a travel clinic and they did not have some of the vaccines in stock. Family doctors may be able to help with travel immunizations, but I personally thought getting a specialist would be more suitable for a longer trip.

Passport Health Travel Clinic in Toronto

What’s the process like?

With Passport Health, I booked an appointment with them through their website and filled in their electronic patient intake form. The form was very straightforward, namely asking where you’re travelling to, your travel dates, previous medical history, allergies and immunization record. I’ll be travelling to multiple locations and they give consultations for all those destinations.

For the appointment, make sure to bring your immunization record. For Ontarians, this is the little yellow immunization card you carried around when you were a kid. Having complete record of your immunizations expedites the process and eliminates burden of potentially getting vaccinated for something you’ve already been vaccinated for.

I met with a registered nurse for my consultation. She went through my immunization history and recommended a list of vaccinations specific to my locations and time of travel. Given the list was pretty long and would have cost an arm and a leg, I asked her what is a MUST, and what is a NICE TO HAVE. She kindly circled 2 important ones.

During this time, I asked her to give me a moment as I checked whether my insurance covered the vaccines and medication. Luckily, my coverage was very generous and all the recommended vaccines were covered so I decided to get them all. Throughout the whole consultation, she was very patient with me and explained everything I had doubts on.

As for prescription drugs and the oral vaccines, I asked them to forward this directly to my pharmacy so I would not have to pay out of pocket. All other subcutaneous vaccines were administered at the same appointment and paid up front. Unfortunately, they do not do direct insurance billing so you would need to submit the receipts on your own. If booster shots are required, you can book your appointments as well. I walked out that day with 4 shots in total, 2 on each arm.

There can be quite a few needles involved! I got 7 shots just for this trip 🙁

What immunizations & medications do I need for India?

Regardless of where you travel, not specific to India, it’s a good idea to get your routine immunizations up-to-date. If you work or volunteer in a hospital, you probably had to prove you’re immunized before you started. Here are the vaccinations that are covered by OHIP if you haven’t had them, or if they need to be updated (alphabetically ordered):

  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)
  • Haemophilus influenzae B (meningitis)
  • HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Influenza (Flu shot)
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Pertussis (whopping cough)
  • Pneumococcal
  • Poliomyelitis (Polio)
  • Tetanus/diphtheria (Td)
  • Tuberculosis test (Tb)
  • Varicella (Chicken pox)
The following are immunizations recommended in addition to the routine vaccinations for travel to INDIA and their prices:
Vaccines (in order of priority):
  • Hepatitis A ($90/dose)
  • Typhoid Fever ($60/dose)
  • *Dukoral (oral vaccine) (~ $90, taken 14 and 7 days before departure)
  • Rabies ($240/dose, 3 doses at 0, 7 and 28 days)
  • Japanese Encephalitis ($290/dose, 2 doses at 0 and 28 days)
Medications:
  • *Malarone for malaria prevention ($3-4/pill, one daily starting 2 days before arriving until 7 days after departing malaria zones)
  • *Azithromycin for general antibiotic (~$15 for 6 pills, 2/day for 3 days at onset of traveler’s diarrhea)
* Items listed with an asterisk can be filled at the pharmacy so prices may vary.
The total cost for all my immunizations, medication and consultation fee ($60) was around $2400. Wow. I definitely took our comprehensive healthcare system for granted! I never knew the cost of vaccines before this.

The Passport Health website also provides a lot of information on travelling to specific regions. Here’s the link for India.

Travel medication kit: Dukoral (taken before the trip), Malaria tablets, antibiotics, multivitamins (doctor suggested prenatal vitamins for me), anti-diarrhea pills, Pepto bismol pills, vitamin C supplements, electrolytes. Not shown: polysporin, TUMS, pain killers, allergy pills.

What other over-the-counter things should I bring?

Over-the-counter medication should be easy to purchase abroad. I’ve read some travel bloggers recommend just buying these items as you need them. However, I admit I’m not a very avid traveller and I personally would not want to be running to a pharmacy or corner store when I’m not feeling well, especially in a foreign place. More importantly, I do have concerns as to the quality of the medication and the expiration dates on these items. I’ll be bringing the following things in my emergency/medical kit:

  • Anti-diarrhea pills
  • Electrolyte packets
  • Vitamin C packets/tablets
  • Pepto-bismol tablet
  • TUMS
  • Pain killers
  • Allergy pills
  • Multivitamin
  • Polysporin & bandaids
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Summary

I know this is a lot of information to read through and I definitely was overwhelmed at my consultation. From the list of immunizations, booster shots required, different dosage and schedule of each medication, prices and deciding if I really needed each vaccine, I really wished I could have read a bit more about this before my first visit. So what do you think? Am I overly prepared or am I still missing some things? Please share!

DISCLAIMER: Please do not substitute the information from this post for professional medical advice. I wrote this post for the purpose of sharing my experience as I wasn’t able to find such information online. I do highly recommend visiting a travel clinic before you leave on your trip. Have a safe and healthy trip!

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