Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Volunteer Abroad and Vaccination

“Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism.” - Samuel Butler. No one likes to fall ill when travelling, be it for volunteer work, but more so if you are taking a trip as a tourist. The risk for catching disease is increased when travelling to another continent. It is therefore advisable when you are travelling to any country for you to make sure you have all your immunization shots. Immunization schedules are usual personalized according to an individual immunization history, the countries to be visited, the duration of travel and the amount of time available before departure. Here is a brief overview.

First of all for those travelling with infants then the primary vaccination series with diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) and pneumococcal conjugate can be started as young as 6 weeks of age.

The most common disease that requires vaccination from most countries, especially as a regulation from the world health organization is yellow fever. Yellow fever is a virus infection, which cause a serious hepatitis. Getting a vaccine will provide protection for 10 years after a single injection. Countries where yellow fever is present are entitled to request a valid certificate documenting a vaccination against yellow fever at least 10 days before entry. The certificate is a stamp in the WHO yellow book. If travelling to Africa, it is mandatory for you to get vaccination in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, and Togo. There are some countries within Africa where yellow fever is not very much a threat, however in such countries you are required to have a certificate of vaccination if you are coming from countries where yellow fever is endemic. These countries include Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Typhoid vaccine is recommended for travellers who will have prolonged exposure i.e. more than four weeks, to potentially contaminated food and water. However, getting a vaccination against typhoid is recommended in all countries in Africa, as much as it is not a requirement for entry to most. The same goes for tetanus and polio.

Diphtheria is a serious throat infection, which infects from person-to-person through the air. The vaccination should be less than 10 years old otherwise a booster is needed. The diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all African countries, especially for people planning to stay for a long period of time, that being three months or more.

Lastly we take a look at hepatitis. Infectious hepatitis infects through contaminated food and water. Vaccination consists of two injections about 12 months apart, which protects for up to 25 years. The hepatitis A vaccine can be combined with hepatitis B. Travelers, who will be residing in areas with high levels of endemic hepatitis B or working in health care facilities, are most recommended to take this vaccine. Hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for all countries in Africa, where a person plans to stay for three months or more. Also note that since hepatitis B carrier rates are much higher in developing countries, every effort should be made to arrange full hepatitis B immunization for children of any age.

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