Travel Health

Vaccination Street

Heading abroad for summer vacation? Let's chat about the ins and outs of travel vaccines.

By Maggie Berardo April 15, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

Last year, I was about to head on a big trip to India and, because I was scared of shots, was dreading the consultation with my doctor. I just knew there would be a long laundry list of new needles I’d have to get pricked with. While my plans for visiting Delhi fell through, my research on the business of travel vaccinations did not, and I’ve got some tips to share.

First thing to keep in mind is that so-called travel clinics are not a good way to go. Fancy clinics that label themselves as travel-oriented like to overcharge for everything. The simple consultation I had with them cost a non-refundable $60, and at said consultation, the clinician rattled off myriad of diseases and names, while quoting the vaccines for each to be at least $500 a pop—some multi-shot vaccinations were $1,000. 

Needless to say, I came out of that consultation dragging my jaw along the floor as I tried to figure out how to handle a staggering $3,000 grand total for all the vaccinations I was told were necessary. But it only took a little bit of private research for me to figure out that some of those vaccinations weren’t going to be needed—and those that were would only cost a fraction of the quoted price.

It is easy to get caught up worrying about one’s health. Our bodies are our temples, right? And we don’t want to bulldoze over those temples by failing to prevent an episode of typhus or rabies. But the truth of the matter is that here in our first-world setting, we can work ourselves into a panic over the conditions in less industrial countries. Exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat shouldn’t require a hazmat suit.

Check out the CDC travel website. This is a perfect starting point to read up on what the real risks are in the places where you're heading. What diseases are still alive there, and what regions are at most risk for what. The CDC website lets you include things about yourself—whether you're traveling with children, you have a chronic illness, you're pregnant, your immune system is compromised, etc.—to provide a more accurate assessment of your needs. And of course, many countries require records of certain vaccinations for entry.

And back to the prices: those quoted at some local travel clinics are absurdly incorrect. Not only do most of the shots one needs for international travel come in at the $50 to $100 range, but even the more expensive ones are all under $300 each. Preparing for my trip, I went to my local Kroger Pharmacy in a moment of desperation. Turns out, the Sweetwater Blvd. Kroger is one of the pharmacies used to ship travel vaccines into the Houston area. While I was originally quoted $3,000 at the travel clinic, here the estimate was $850.

If you happen to be heading on a big summer trip and need vaccinating, then look into your local pharmacies. They might surprise you with what's available. And if all else fails, then just pop over to the Medical Center. Happy travels, Houston, and remember to bring back postcards. Not diseases.


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