Vaccinations for travellers
Before travelling, it is worth finding out what vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the destination concerned and getting them in good time.
First make sure that your vaccinations under the national immunisation programme are in order.
You will not generally need any other vaccinations if you are travelling in Europe, North America or Australia. You might consider having the vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis if you are going to spend weeks in areas where the disease is known to have occurred and if you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors when there is no snow on the ground.
If you are travelling to South or Central America, Africa, Eastern or South-east Asia or India, ask at your health centre about whether your vaccinations are up to date and the possible need for additional vaccinations.
The risk areas for many diseases are in rural districts or city slums. If, for example, you are travelling to the major cities of Japan, you will not need any special vaccinations. If you are going to be staying for a lengthy period in rural Japan during the rainy season, you should be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis.
You can find the latest vaccination recommendations for every country in the Traveller’s Health Guide edited by National Institute for Health and Welfare. These will show you if you need special vaccinations to travel to a certain country or part of one. The guide also explains what vaccinations are recommended for everyone in that country.
Your health centre can also provide you with information on the vaccinations that you need for your journey.
The main traveller’s diseases preventable by vaccination are measles, hepatitis A (formerly jaundice), hepatitis B (inflammation of the liver caused by a virus), influenza, polio, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, cholera, meningococcal disease and rabies.
Some of these vaccinations, such as that for influenza and hepatitis B, are given in Finland to risk groups as part of the national immunisation programme and the meningococcal vaccine is available to those called up for military service or women doing voluntary military service. Others can have these vaccinations if they need them to travel, for example.
When travelling in the Tropics, the vaccinations should start at least one to two months before departure. The vaccinations will normally start to be effective after a few weeks, though some vaccines require multiple doses prior to travelling.
Many countries in Africa and South and Central America require travellers to carry an international vaccination certificate for yellow fever. The certificate becomes valid 10 days after vaccination. A typhoid vaccination taken orally must be given three times before the trip starts. The vaccination for Japanese encephalitis is given twice, and the period between injections must be at least 28 days. A cholera vaccination is normally required in two doses, one to six weeks apart. You can still take the booster two years after the second vaccination.
The first vaccination for hepatitis B should be given four weeks before the start of the trip and the second just before departure. If you have a third vaccination six months after the first, it will probably give protection for the rest of your life.
You can receive the vaccinations at your local health centre. The doctor will write you a prescription for the vaccine, you buy it at a pharmacy and you return to be vaccinated. An appointment for the vaccination often has to be made. The pharmacy will give you instructions on how to store vaccines the right way.
The prices vary for different vaccines. Because vaccinations for travellers are not included in the national immunisation programme, no reimbursement of the costs is available from Kela. You can also get vaccinations from private health care companies.
When you go for a vaccination you should always tell the health care staff that you are pregnant. Not all vaccinations will necessarily be given to pregnant women.
There is no vaccination for malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. If there is a risk of malaria at your travel destination and malaria prophylaxis is recommended, prevention should start while you are still in Finland. Untreated, malaria is life-threatening. People should protect themselves from malaria-carrying mosquitoes with mosquito repellents, by covering their bodies and with mosquito nets. If on your trip or afterwards you develop a fever, contact your doctor immediately and tell him or her about your trip and the possibility of malaria, even if you have taken your antimalarial medication according to the instructions.