Immunization = $$ = Needles = :(

I am good at procrastinating.  If it were a class and I were in school, I’d be getting an “A” with no effort at all.   But they say change is good and this is a facet in me that I must make an effort to abolish.  Well, maybe modify.  Perhaps just alleviate?  You see how good I am at procrastinating?  Because I feel uninspired, I am using words to stall (at times I  equate stalling to procrastination) and not communicate what I have come to say.   But, no more.  Here goes.

I have a strong aversion to needles and side effects so I have… yes, you guessed it: procrastinated in going onto the Center for Disease Control website to find out what immunizations (ie: needles) I will need to go to Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.  I promise I will find a pseudo-acronym for this trip.  I got it!  BLT+ (B for Burma –actually Myanmar- but for this purpose it will be Burma; L for Laos and T for Thailand and the “+” for Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.)  Phew, no more repetitive typing!

As I have lunch at The Black Cow in Montrose I pull out my trusty computer and get on-line.  Victor, the best server ever, knows exactly what I order so he greets me with a hug and asks “The usual?”  This feels like home.  So I am on the site.  Lazy me can’t believe that she has to go to each country one by one.  No cheat sheet.  I find a link to a Global Travel Clinic Directory that “know all about traveler’s immunization needs.”   So here I am.  I call the first one in Glendale and they are closed.  I leave a message.  I call the next one in Pasadena.  Also closed.  I leave a message.  I try another.  Ditto.  So now I have nothing left to do but wait.  And enjoy my steak salad.

My cell rings and I am told that this is the Medical Clinic for Immunization returning my call.  So she gives me the laundry list of immunizations that are recommended.  This is not sounding good.  Well the Hepatitis A and B (a series of 3 shots) is $170, then the Rabies shot is another $100.  I become restless.  “Could you give me an approximate figure of how many and how much?”  “Well around six of them would be around $800 but that’s without the two most important ones which are the typhoid one and the….” I stop registering anything until she says:  “Those two are $1,600.”  And this is without the malaria pills.  I’m not that great at math but I immediately add it up to $2,400.  I calmly thank her for the information, hang up, and panic!  Are you kidding me?

I get on-line and e-mail, Facebook, go to the OAT Travel site and message everyone if this is even remotely in the ballpark of what others have paid.  Two of my friends whom I know well and have traveled to BLT+ say: “Noooooo, no need for any of that.  Just go and enjoy!”  I have yet to hear from the travel company’s previous clients.

In the process of checking for responses I find a post from a traveler that says that the CDC has just posted a health warning for travelers going to Vietnam due to an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, though it seems to primarily affect children.  What the heck?

My cell rings.  I’m starting to feel real important.  My phone is ringing a lot.  This is the Healthy Traveler Clinic in Pasadena.  Me:  “Well, you are calling at a time when I am still almost speechless.  Just got a call from another clinic saying that all the vaccines I need are going to cost me roughly a third of my trip so far.”   On the other side I hear a compassionate voice saying that she understands and she hears that a lot.  She wants me to see the doctor who will go over the priorities, if any, on the shots and pills and that I am at liberty to decline or even go to another clinic to get them.  Things are looking better.   I have an appointment tomorrow morning.  But before I go to the doctor, I must fill out 9 pages of forms. Will be reporting back.

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Categories: Cambodia, China, Immunizations, Laos, Myanmar - Burma, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Immunization = $$ = Needles = :(

  1. http://www.healthytraveler.com/ – Best prices and they don’t try to sell you on what you don’t need. Rabies, for instance is not a single shot and definitely something you don’t want to get unless you absolutely have to. Got my Hep A&B, typhoid, etc. for under $200. The place is like a spa and the med. tech that gives you the shot makes it so quick and painless you don’t even know when it’s over.

  2. Hi Jeff!!! I was lucky enough that the next call was from The Healthy Traveler. You are right on the money about them! I loooooved them. It did add up though to almost $500 but I am completely satisfied with their service! And now I feel much more relieved since I will be protected. They are the ones in Pasadena, right?
    Thanks for your reply and for reading my post!

  3. The price we pain for pain! (But probably better than getting a funky disease!)

    Good luck on your trip. Next to writing, travelling is one of my favorite things. And thank you for coming to check out my blog. Appreciate it!

  4. I had friends that had no vaccinations but I didn’t want to take a chance.
    Thanks for the well wishes!
    I will be checking your blog. Really like how you write.

  5. Unless you’re planning on travelling to some extremely remote areas, some of these are just going to wholly unnecessarily for a short period in SE Asia. A friend of mine is still kicking herself for getting a Japanese Encephalitis injection because it cost her $600.

    Regarding malaria pills, there is a slight risk of it in some places, though if you think about it in the larger picture, there are hundreds of millions of people living their whole lives in the region. How many of them are taking malaria pills as a preventative measure every day? Next to none. And such a minute fraction of them are ever infected with malaria. That was one I opted against, as the side effects are more often worse than the small chance of getting infected.

    There was one instance in Nang Rong, about 30 miles or so from the Cambodia border where my door popped open in the middle of the night and I woke up to hundreds of mosquitoes in my room and bites all over my body. That had me worried a bit, but 3 months later and perfectly fine.

    The same area though, I did have some animal jump on me while I was on a motorbike, scratched me and it drew blood before I shoved it off onto the ground. It was nearing dark, so I didn’t get a look at what it was, but it was enough to get me started on a 5-injection rabies post-exposure treatment over the course of a month. Unlike malaria, rabies is always fatal, so not knowing what scratched me, I wasn’t going to take that risk.

    It’s not a fun thing to walk into a foreign hospital for the first time though.

  6. Hi Ben!

    I am going to remote areas of BLT+ that the doctor was quite thorough in looking into before he came to his recommendations. I am quite confident that unlike the first clinic, he was not ripping me off. I preferred to err on the cautious side on this trip for various reasons. With the malaria pills he said he recommended them due to the areas, but it was entirely up to me and since mosquitoes always find me, I chose to go ahead and do it. Didn’t want to be worried on most of the trip. Tetanus kills 1 in 5 of those affected so I went for that too.
    On the other hand I have friends that have gone for months to the area and gotten no vaccinations at all.

    How horrible about the animal that scratched you! And you are right, rabies is fatal and it has to be treated within the first 24 hours. He told me that should I be bitten or scratched I should fly to Thailand or Hong Kong immediately since the other countries may be using shots that are not as effective.

    Oh well so now I’m 5 days away and I have a few less things to worry about except getting bitten by a dog, or tiger, or monkey, or… think I’ll go back to worrying!

  7. I get my shots Wednesday. I’m definitely taking malaria pills since I’ll be camping through 6 countries in Africa!

    • I would definitely recommend you taking them too. The one that my doctor gave me had no side effects (at least I didn’t have them). Some of them are notorious for producing them so ask, if you can, specifically for the one that gives you the least side effects possible.
      I am so envious (in a good way) that you are preparing for your journey while mine has ended. 😦

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