Thanks to the popularity of the Internet, as well as a growing, diverse diaspora and competitive air fares, global travel is at an all-time high. In 2014, the amount of international travelers reached 1.1 billion, and that number is expected to top 1.8 billion annually by 2025.
Travel and tourism is so popular that it’s becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world and now accounts for roughly 10 percent of the global economy, adding $5.1 trillion to the world’s total GDP.
While travel provides opportunities to discover and immerse oneself in foreign lands and cultures, the ease of it has also increased the risk of a global pandemic.
Importance of Travel Vaccinations
Vaccines are often the last thing we think about when we book our vacation, but the spread of disease is an all too real concern. With the rise of the Zika virus through South America and now parts of North America and with the Ebola crisis of 2014, the transmission of disease across borders and around the world has been made easier through global travel.
This is why it’s imperative that travelers and tourists not only protect themselves, but also act to protect the indigenous and native populations they visit while on holiday.
In order to do so, travelers need to ensure they are not only up-to-date on their vaccinations and inoculations, but that they also obtain all the necessary travel vaccines.
Travel vaccines are a crucial step in vacation preparation and shouldn’t be left till the last minute. As the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) points out, “Vaccine-preventable diseases that are rare in the United States, such as polio, can still be found in other parts of the world.”
Measles, for example, still occurs year-round in many countries, including common travel destinations in Europe and Asia. Approximately 20 million people are diagnosed with measles annually, and roughly 146,000 people die each year from it.
"It's wise to immunize"
Australian travel blogger Megan Claire uses a rhyming rule on her blog to educate tourists, “It’s wise to immunize.” She advises all travelers, no matter how worldly, to routinely check and document their vaccinations.
Claire recounts a trip to South America where she was required to produce documentation for a Yellow Fever shot she received four years prior. “Though in my desperation to avoid a second jab at all costs, a light-bulb moment occurred,” writes Claire. “I went out on a limb and phoned Australia from the States on the off chance my travel clinic kept records which dated back to 2010.”
She was lucky, but this simple case of forgetting her paperwork could have cost the travel blogger her expensive trip. As a result of increased global travel, some countries require documentation that vaccines are up-to-date before allowing a visitor admittance into the country. This measure is used to ensure travelers do not pose a threat to native populations.
The rise of the global citizen
The rise of the global citizen - defined informally as people who live in or call more than one country their home - also presents a unique healthcare challenge. Global citizens need to be versed and up-to-date with all the inoculations each country they reside in demands and be vigilant as they travel through countries on stop and layovers.
International traveler and investment consultant Wayne Wile ensures he follows the travel protocols for both Europe and the Cayman Islands where he often splits his time. “Before I book a vacation or travel internationally, I often consult my family doctor to ensure I have all my current vaccines and to get any specific travel vaccines I need,” explains Wayne Wile.
Visiting your family doctor or a travel medicine doctor is a good start; however, it is important to research the specific areas you are visiting to learn about the common diseases and viruses found there. “You really have to be proactive,” adds Wayne Wile. “You can’t expect your doctor to know everything about every destination.”
The World Health Organization, the CDC and other health based websites offer fantastic resources for travelers to plan their trips.
Visiting a doctor to receive any needed vaccines is important; however, some take as long as 6 months to take effect, so travelers must be sure they receive their shots in time for them to be effective.