High-Risk Travelers Need Pre-Trip Vaccinations

Travel vaccines prevent infectious diseases while abroad

airport travelers

Travel vaccine experts attending the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting reminded practitioners that high-risk international travelers need special attention. 

High-risk, international travelers are not uncommon, reported Ashley Lyles, Staff Writer, MedPage Today.   

Among 15,440 travelers assessed in this study using the Boston Area Travel Medicine Network, about 18 percent were classified as ‘high-risk’. 

The median age was 47 for high-risk travelers, compared with 32 years old for healthy travelers, reported Lin Chen, MD, of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.   

Of those high-risk travelers:

  • 23 percent were found to be immunocompromised,
  • 74 percent had co-morbidities, and,
  • 2.5 percent were pregnant.

Among these high-risk travelers:

  • 94 percent visited regions where typhoid is of concern,
  • 86 percent visited malaria-risk countries, and,
  • 23 percent visited yellow fever–endemic countries.

Additionally, among those high-risk traveling to areas where yellow fever is endemic, 35 percent of pregnant women and 44 percent of immunocompromised received an indicated vaccine. 

These high-risk groups include immunocompromised individuals, children, and pregnant women planning to travel abroad. 

For the immunocompromised, Dr. Chen said ‘that clinicians should take into account the patient's underlying disease, any therapeutic agents they might be on, the possible risk of any vaccine in these patients, and the availability of medical care when abroad.’ 

A previous study reported travelers who sought pre-travel healthcare refused recommended vaccines at varying rates. 

A lack of concern about the associated illness was the most commonly cited reason for refusing vaccines. 

This study’s data suggest more effective consumer education about disease risk is needed for international travelers, even those who seek pre-travel advice.   

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes travel notices designed to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues related to specific international destinations. 

These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters that may affect travelers’ health. 

Moreover, the CDC Health Information for International Travel, which is commonly called the ‘Yellow Book’, is published every 2 years. It is a useful resource for anyone interested in staying healthy abroad. 

Separately, the US Department of State issues country-specific Travel Advisories regarding safety and security risks.  

And, country-specific weather information is available at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration International Weather Selector webpage. 

Since airports and airplanes are full of international travelers, there's a significant chance that there could be some pathogens floating around on surfaces that you're more than likely going to touch. 

Ideally, you should see a health care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your international trip to get needed vaccines or medicines.   

Pre-trip counseling sessions can be scheduled with a local pharmacy at Vax-Before-Travel. 

And, vaccine discounts can be found here. 

Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects, says the CDC.