What You Need To Know About Travel Immunizations

Travel Immunizations

It’s minus 20 degrees Celsius, the snow is piled four feet high and all you can think about is getting out of here and heading somewhere warm and sunny. Or, it’s March Break or summer vacation and you want to head out on a fun-filled family adventure.

You have 185 lists of clothing you should take, you’ve dug out everyone’s passport, the plane tickets and accommodations are booked. Now all that’s left to do is cross off the days on the calendar and wait.

Right? Wrong!

You are missing one VERY important part of the plan; travel immunizations.

You may recall, a couple of weeks ago I wrote an Ask the Pharmacist post where I asked you to tweet some travel vaccination questions.

Well, the results were overwhelming! What I did was go through every question and compiled ten questions for the pharmacist, that I felt was representative of the most asked questions.

Travel ImmunizationsI spoke, by phone, with a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist and asked her the following questions.

{The answers below are in my own words and are a compilation of what she told me, as well as, some information gleaned from the Shoppers Drug Mart website.}

Question #1

Are there medications to prevent travellers’ diarrhea?

  • The most common illness to strike Canadian tourists in developing countries is travellers’ diarrhea (TD), which usually lasts 3 or 4 days but can sometimes last a week or longer. It can be caused by any of a number of bacteria, such as E. coli, and, less often, by parasites.
  • TD may also be prevented by taking an oral vaccine called Dukoral®. This medication can be taken by healthy individuals over 2 years of age. The vaccine is taken as 2 doses at intervals of at least a week, but not more than 6 weeks apart. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to see if the vaccine is right for you and your family.
  • Dukoral® also provides protection against Cholera.
  • Dukoral® provides limited protection against TD (~ 50%), so prevention is key!  Remember this when eating abroad. Boil It, Cook It, Peel It or Leave It.

Question #2

Is there an immunization for the Zika virus?

  • There is no immunization against the Zika virus.
  • The Zika virus is spread mainly by mosquitoes and preventing exposure is paramount.
  • Wear loose, light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to help avoid bug bites.
  • Bring and apply insect repellent that contains DEET. {Some conditions may apply, check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider.}
  • Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • If at all possible, sleep with a mosquito net over your bed.
  • Monitor the Government of Canada, Travel Advice and Advisories website for additional information.

Question #3

How do you find out what travel vaccines are necessary for various regions, as well as, how far in advance of travel you should receive these immunizations or boosters?

  • Immunizations are among the most important and effective ways to prevent travel-related infections. Immunizations for travel include:
    • the routine childhood or adult immunizations that you would receive in Canada
    • those that are required to cross certain international borders (e.g., yellow fever)
    • recommended immunizations according to the risk of infection
  • The Canadian government maintains a website with current information for travellers at www.travelhealth.gc.ca, and the US government has an excellent travel health site at www.cdc.gov/travel.
  • Since January of 2016, Shoppers Drug Mart has offered the option of a one on one travel consult with a pharmacist.
    • Ideally, the consult should occur at least two months prior to travel. However, some protection is better than none, so it is never too late to consult your pharmacist.
    • View a printable Pre-Travel Questionnaire
    • When you visit a travel clinic, be sure to bring any medical records and travel forms you have so that you can discuss:
      • your previous immunizations
      • your medical history, allergies, and current medications
      • your current health issues and infections
      • your travel plans (bring your travel itinerary) and lifestyle
      • your insurance situation
    • There is a fee associated with this service.

Question #4

Is travel related immunization covered by Medicare or private health insurance?

  • Travel related immunizations are not covered by Medicare, however, some private insurance plans do cover some travel immunizations.

Question #5

What immunizations do children need and at what age should children be immunized?

  • In addition to immunizations as outlined in the Provincial Immunization Schedule, children need the same immunizations as adults. Sometimes dosage needs to be adjusted.
  • Children and pregnant women should ask their physician or pharmacist about the benefits and risks of certain vaccines.

Question #6

What are the risks of not vaccinating?

  • Lifelong illness or even death.

Question #7

Are all travel-related immunizations available at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies?

  • The majority of travel-related immunizations are available at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies.
  • The pharmacist can provide a prescription for many of the immunizations and those prescriptions that the pharmacist cannot provide can be referred to your physician or other health care provider.
  • NOTE – Yellow Fever – Depending on the area you are visiting you may need a certificate of vaccination. A certificate may even be required if you are only making a connecting flight in an area that requires Yellow Fever vaccination.

Question #8

Are there any contraindications to receiving immunizations?

  • Yes, there are often contraindications. During a consultation, the pharmacist will evaluate risks on an individual basis.

Question #9

Do I need to make an appointment to receive vaccinations or to discuss travel related vaccines with a pharmacist?

  • An appointment is usually preferred but it also depends on the services required and the individual store policy.
  • You can always call the pharmacy to ask if an appointment is necessary.

Question #10

What are some side effects that can be expected from travel-related vaccinations?

  • Side effects are usually mild and self-limiting.
  • Depending on the route of administration (injection versus oral) you may experience pain or swelling at an injection site, muscle aches and general malaise.
  • For anything else you should contact your healthcare provider.

I want to take a moment to thank Corina, the very knowledgeable Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist who took time from her very busy day to chat with me and answer all of my questions.

Here’s an interesting fact relayed to me by the pharmacist:

Less than 20% of travellers are aware of or plan to receive travel immunizations.

I found this number to be shocking.

Yes, there is some advance planning needed, yes there may be a cost involved. But you have spent x number of dollars on your trip, why not take the time and a little more money to ensure your health and the health of your family? To me, the risk of not vaccinating is not worth the possible outcome.

Planning a trip? Be sure to visit your pharmacist or other health care provider to find out what you can do to stay healthy while travelling.

What are your thoughts? Do you consult with your pharmacist or health care provider prior to heading out on a trip?

If vaccinations are recommended, do you get them?




  1. sabina edwards says:

    wow, thats weird numbers eh? but perhaps the travelers are just younger now? with less experience

  2. Robin Masshole Mommy says:

    I won’t be traveling internationally for many years because my kids are still young, but this is going to help tons of people planning on traveling soon.

  3. Carol Cassara says:

    This is quite a helpful post. We have a “travel clinic” in our area that lots of people visit for the right info for their travels.

  4. Michelle Gwynn Jones says:

    You should certainly get the appropriate vaccines. I don’t understand why some people are willing to risk their lifes rather than get vaccines

  5. Amy Jones says:

    So much i didn’t know, ill be on the lookout next time i take a trip. Thanks for the post.

  6. Elizabeth O. says:

    Most of the time we just worry about the fare and the accommodations that we forget about our health and our safety. This is a very good reminder of that, thank you for posting this. It’s important to get shots and to have full check up before you and your family starts traveling, especially when you’re going to a different country!

  7. This post is extremely informative! I am shocked at the percentage of people that don’t get immunizations when traveling abroad. I would be so scared NOT to.

  8. Angie Scheie says:

    What a great idea to poll your readers and then take your questions to the pharmacy! Looks like they were very thorough and helpful.

  9. Emma white says:

    Very informative post, in sure this will help many people :)

  10. LaQuinda says:

    I won’t be traveling internationally anytime soon, but this is a great post to bookmark for later.

  11. Ana Fernandez says:

    Great tips to avoid zika virus! It is the worst! My sister got it in one of his trips!

  12. It is important to have the information on required vaccinations. You want to have info on the optional ones too though, and that we sometimes forget.

  13. Lalia Frolick says:

    I don’t like using products containing DEET, however, even dealing with health problems later as a result of mosquito deterrents containing chemicals seems like a small price to pay compared with many mosquito borne diseases that can be common in many travel destinations. Thank you for sharing all of this information to help people make their travels safe!
    Lalia Frolick recently posted…Get the Scoop on the Weruva® Cat Litter, It’s a #CatTeaPotty!My Profile

  14. Lisa Rios says:

    A safe & healthy travel is what could make a journey a pleasant & peaceful one despite other arrangements being in perfect setup. This is such a great resource that could be so helpful for everyone around & I agree immunizations are very much needed when you are travelling overseas.

  15. Mardene Carr says:

    This is something that is so important yet so overlooked by many. Thank you for the reminder

  16. Hannah A says:

    I’ve never had TED but these are some great steps to prevent it! I usually take digestive vitamins anyway so I’m sure that would help me!

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