Vaccinations for Vietnam
With its fascinating history, beautiful landscapes and world-famous food, it’s no wonder Vietnam is such a popular holiday destination. However, anyone visiting this country from the UK should remember that there are few health precautions that need to be taken.
Mosquito bite prevention should be practised to guard against mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and a low risk of malaria. Care should be taken with eating and drinking as food and water can sometimes be contaminated.
Before you leave for Vietnam, you will need to speak to a doctor or travel health consultant about which vaccinations are right for you. You should aim to do this at least six weeks before you travel.
Do you need vaccinations to visit Vietnam?
The four vaccines which most travellers to Vietnam are recommended are diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A and typhoid. Depending upon where you will be travelling to and what activities you will be undertaking, you may also require the vaccines for cholera hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies. Although these vaccinations are recommended your healthcare practitioner will carry out an individual risk assessment.
The other thing to bear in mind is that you will need to be fully up to date on all your routine British immunisations. If you haven’t been fully immunised you may require full courses of these vaccines before you leave. To find out whether you are up to date on your immunisations, ask your GP.
Diphtheria, polio and tetanus booster
Most people travelling to Vietnam will benefit form the combined diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster (provided that they are otherwise up to date on their routine immunisations). This booster is administered as a single injection and offers protection against both diphtheria and tetanus (as well as polio) for around 10 years. It is usually free on the NHS.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection which is found in poor, overcrowded areas of Vietnam. It is spread in infected droplets from sneezes and coughs and can cause a fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Left untreated, diphtheria can lead to life-threatening complications.
Tetanus is a type of bacteria found in soil and animal manure. When tetanus bacteria get into the skin they can cause painful muscle spasms and stiffness.
Do I really need a typhoid vaccine for Vietnam?
The typhoid vaccine can be administered as a single injection, or in the form of three capsules which are swallowed. It offers some protection against typhoid for around three years, at which point you should get vaccinated again if you continue to travel to high risk areas. It is usually free on the NHS.
Typhoid fever is a serious bacterial infection which is spread through infected faeces (and sometimes urine). In areas of Vietnam with poor sanitation, food and water may become contaminated. Typhoid causes a fever, headache, stomach pains and constipation or diarrhoea. Left untreated it can lead to serious complications such as internal bleeding.
If you are planning on receiving the hepatitis A vaccine, you can receive both in one injection. The combined hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine is usually free on the NHS.
The cholera vaccine is administered as a drink and not an injection. Adults require two doses, taken one to six weeks apart.
Cholera is spread in the faeces of an infected person, and can contaminate food and water in areas with poor sanitation. It’s particularly recommended for aid workers or people travelling to areas of Vietnam with poor sanitation and limited access to medical services.
How long before you travel do you need a hepatitis A vaccination?
As with other injections for Vietnam it is important that you get your hepatitis A vaccine booked in at least 4 weeks before you leave for you trip, although 4-6 weeks is ideal. The time an vary between travel clinics but it is best to leave plenty of time so you can be properly prepared.
The hepatitis A vaccine is administered as a single injection, and is usually free on the NHS. It can be given on its own, or in combination (as a single injection) with the typhoid vaccine or the hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis A is a disease that affects the liver, initially causing flu-like symptoms and later jaundice, itchy skin and painful swelling around the liver. Most people will recover from hepatitis A within a few months, but the symptoms can be unpleasant and in rare cases the disease can cause serious complications.
Hepatitis A is spread in the faeces of an infected person. Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water is usually the route of transmission for travellers to Vietnam, particularly in areas with poor sanitation.
Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is administered as three single injections, over the course of several weeks. It is not normally available on the NHS for travellers, but can be obtained privately from a number of different services (click here to view prices).
Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection that attacks the liver, causing flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and jaundice. Most adults fight off the infection, but it can develop into a chronic condition and lead to serious complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is spread in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. You may be at risk if, while in Vietnam, you:
- Have unprotected sex
- Share needles or other injecting equipment
- Get a tattoo or body piercing
- Receive medical or dental treatment
Japanese encephalitis vaccine
The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is administered as two single injections. It is not available on the NHS but can be obtained privately.
This vaccine offers protection against Japanese encephalitis, which is a mosquito-borne disease. Most people who contract this disease will experience mild symptoms and fight it off within a short period. In rare cases, the disease spreads to the central nervous system and causes seizures and paralysis.
Your risk is highest if you are planning on spending long periods of time in Vietnam’s countryside and you should consider getting this vaccine.
The rabies vaccine is administered as three single injections, over the course of a month. It is not usually available on the NHS but can be obtained privately.
Rabies is a viral infection spread in the scratch or bite of an infected animal. It is nearly always fatal, particularly if symptoms develop. If you are bitten by an infected animal whilst in Vietnam you will require emergency treatment, even if you have received the vaccine. Receiving the vaccine makes the emergency treatment much easier to administer.
If you will be working with animals, long stay or travelling remotely in Vietnam pre-exposure rabies vaccination should be considered.
The TB vaccine (BCG) used to be routinely offered to UK schoolchildren so many adults will have already been vaccinated. Now the BGC vaccine is only given to selective children at birth. If you are staying in Vietnam for prolonged periods with unvaccinated children it may be appropriate to have them vaccinated. The vaccine is also recommended to people at risk because of their occupation e.g. health workers.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection transmitted through the infected droplets from coughs and sneezes. It attacks the lungs, causing coughing, difficulty breathing, and a fever.
Receiving your injections for Vietnam
You can get several of your Vietnam vaccinations for free from your GP. The vaccines that are not available on the NHS can be obtained through a private clinic such as MASTA travel health.
How long before travel do I need vaccinations?
So, you’re getting ready for your trip, you’ve found your passport and your favourite sunglasses but what about your vaccinations? If you can it is best to see your GP or visit a travel clinic like MASTA 8 weeks before your trip. They’ll be able to recommend vaccinations for your holiday, you can also use our Vaccine Checker to discover which vaccines you may need.
What can happen if you don't get vaccinated?
Vaccines help you stay protected from diseases and infections found around the world. They don’t just protect you but also help those around you. If you don’t get vaccinated your risk of getting seriously ill is increased, also the risk of you spreading a disease or infection is greater too.