I'm going backpacking around SE Asia at the end of July and am in the process of sorting out vaccines. Just wondered if I could get some advice/hear some experiences and opinions!
I'm hearing so many mixed reviews about whether or not to take the preventative Malaria tablets. It seems it just depends whether you want to risk it? I'm concerned about side effects, which I hear can be quite bad - but is it rare to suffer side effects or very common? Any experience that people have to tell would be much appreciated!
Secondly - what about hepatitis B? I've had hep A (free) but hep B is expensive apparently! Do people generally get this or is it over precautionary?
One last thing - are the cost of jabs such as hep B and rabies generally the same or can prices vary? I've been told around £140 for hep B and same again for rabies.
Bit of info: I'm going to Bangkok to stay for a while, then doing the islands, then going over to Cambodia, Vietnam, possibly Laos - a pretty typical tour of the SE Asia area. I don't expect to be going to anywhere massively rural, but wouldn't want to rule it out.
You'll get a lot of mixed opinions on what vaccines are needed and whether or not to use anti-malarials, I think at the end of the day it's a personal choice. Personally I just went all out and got everything, Hep A, Typhoid/Dip/Polio, Hep B, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis (Jap B).
Hep B I think I paid about £70, Rabies, £130, Jap B £140. You'd need to be pretty unlucky to get hit with Japanese Encephalitis but 1 in 4 cases end in death, I was happy to pay £140 for that extra piece of mind, a lot will probably argue it was pointless but again it's personal opinion.
As for anti-malarials, I am taking doxycycline and have no side effects although some people can get a bit sick on them apparently. It's only about £9 for a month's supply so again I was happy enough to pay this for that extra piece of mind even though they aren't 100% effective. You wont need these for Thailand at all but will for the likes of Laos and Cambodia you will, best to check the governments travel pages for up to date info on that before you go.
Hope that helps!
With respect to the jabs, I think Hep A and Thyphoid are a minimum personally (and make sure your tetanus is up-to-date). Hep B is generally spread via body fluids so if you plan getting close and personal with strangers while travelling, you might want to consider this as well.
The thing to realise is that none of us here (maybe with the odd exception) are medical experts - so my advice really counts for diddly squat when it comes to YOUR health. My choices and level of risk tolerance will be quite different to yours. You need to make an informed decision based on what's best for you - and be prepared to live with the consequences. Friends recently went to Indonesia for a 3 week holiday to visit family and their daughter caught typhoid and dengue fever - so much of their time was spent in hospital. Not the holiday they planned.
Malaria is always a risk but I chose to carry my doxy pills for 6 months rather than take them! My reasoning is that I was already at risk of Dengue Fever so I had to protect myself from mosquito bites anyhow with repellant, etc. And I hate the idea of popping pills every day.
If you take Doxy be aware that you can sunburn more easily if you're planning on spending time in the islands, etc. Just use plenty of sunscreen. I was prescribed some recently as an antibiotic and forgotten that little point. I don't normally burn too easily but did this while I was taking it.
Rabies? It's unlikely you will come near a rabid dog. But you also need to consider the monkeys, bats, etc. And it's still unlikely. If you DO get bitten you'll have to go through post-bite treatment - but it's more intense if haven't had the vaccinations. Just be aware of the decisions that you are making around vaccinations. And avoid dogs, bats and monkeys. The monkeys are NOT cute. They're nasty critters with evil teeth! :-)