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Vaccination Advice For Volunteers on The Fit for Travel NHS Website

Friday 18th March 2011

Make sure you leave plenty of time for your vaccinations before you depart abroad

The NHS Fit for Travel website has some very useful advice for travllers going abroad to volunteer. Requirements for vaccinations can change regularly so even if you’ve been abroad recently, and had some jabs, make sure you’re still right up-to-date with the ones specific to the countries you plan to stay in.

  • Take special care over arranging your vaccinations. Usually voluntary workers have plenty of time to prepare but emergency teams should be prepared in advance to avoid having to make last minute arrangements.
  • Vaccinations take time. Consult your doctor or nurse as soon as possible ideally 8 weeks before departure. Late bookings can leave insufficient time for vaccinations to become fully effective.
  • Tetanus and diphtheria vaccination is important. For countries where these diseases are still common you should to receive boosters every 10 years and everyone should have completed their normal British childhood schedule.
  •  There is an increasing risk of tuberculosis for those visiting many of the high-risk areas and mixing with the local population. Remember protection from BCG vaccination is only achieved after about 4-6 weeks. Boosters are not normally required.
  • Meningococcal type ACWY vaccine is advised for those visiting risk areas in sub-Saharan Africa who will be mixing closely with the local population, as might be the case in your situation.
  • Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are important for those who are not able to be careful about their food and water hygiene in risk areas, as is often the case with the more adventurous traveller.
  • Japanese B encephalitis is spread by mosquitoes and is sometimes advised for those spending longer periods in risk, especially rural areas, as is often the case with the more adventurous traveller.
  • Influenza vaccine can be considered for those who might get a more severe illness such as those with existing chest problems. Remember the ’flu’ season in the Southern Hemisphere is from April to November.
  • Rabies vaccination can be important if you are going to be more than a day or two from good medical facilities that may well be the case in your situation.
  • Yellow fever is a mosquito borne disease and occurs most commonly in jungle areas. It is therefore more likely in travellers going to remote areas. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is necessary for crossing borders in many parts of Africa and South America.

Malaria Prevention

When you cannot be sure that your accommodation will ensure good mosquito protection, you must consider taking a good mosquito net. Sensible clothing to protect the skin from bites and careful use of mosquito repellents is also important. If your advisor recommends anti-malaria tablets make sure you take then correctly. You are much more likely to be exposed to malaria than those on package tours or those travelling for business reasons.

Bite avoidance measures as mentioned above will also reduce the risks from other insect borne infections such as yellow fever, dengue fever and leishmaniasis.