An expat’s guide to vaccinations in Thailand
Are you moving to Bangkok’s central business district? Perhaps vaccinations aren’t at the forefront of your mind. Or are you planning to live in rural areas? In which case, you’ll probably be looking into vaccinations. Nevertheless, while the vaccines you’ll need depends on where you’re located, as well as the activities you’ll be doing, vaccinations are crucial for all foreigners living in Thailand. In this Pacific Prime Thailand article, we’ll tell you things to consider when it comes to vaccinations, as well as vaccination lists, costs, and health insurance matters.
Vaccinations for moving to Thailand: Things you should keep in mind
Thailand’s tropical climate means the country is home to many diseases that Western expats may not be exposed to back at home. For this reason, it’s worth discussing vaccinations for moving to Thailand with your general practitioner (GP). As alluded to previously, not all expats will need to get vaccinated before traveling.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Location: For those living in a swanky apartment in Bangkok, spending most of their time in an air-conditioned office building, you’ll be less exposed to diseases than if you were out hiking in the jungle or living in remote, rural areas.
Age: There may also be different sets of vaccinations for different age groups. For instance, those above the age of 50 are recommended to get vaccinated for Shingles, as the disease is more common in older people, whether in Thailand or Western countries.
Note: If you’re moving to Thailand with a child, the recommended vaccination list may differ from the one presented in this article. You want to consider your home country’s immunization schedule for children, or check out the schedule recommended by the Pediatric infectious diseases society of Thailand:
Vaccination history: What you’ll need to be vaccinated for prior to moving to Thailand will depend on what you’ve already been vaccinated for as a child and whether those vaccinations are up to date.
Health warnings: Finally, health risks are constantly changing in Thailand and new viruses can be discovered at any time. Therefore, keep in mind all travel and health warnings, as well as all the necessary precautions.
Vaccination lists for expats in Thailand
With that said, what vaccines should an expat have in Thailand? Here, we’ll tell you Thailand’s vaccination requirement, as well as group expats into three categories: expats staying in cities, expats staying in rural areas, and those who will be hiking and trekking in the country. However, each situation is different, and medical advice keeps evolving, so the following advice should be taken as a guideline only and you should always consult your GP first.
A word about Thailand’s vaccination requirement
It is important to note that if you’re visiting Thailand from a yellow-fever zone, or have been there within 6 days prior to entering the country, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination for this disease. Moreover, if you’re coming from any African or South American country, you’re also advised to check what specific vaccinations you’re required to get. Otherwise, consider the following vaccinations:
Expats staying in cities
If you’re staying in cities, these are the four diseases you should get vaccinated for, unless you’re already up to date on them:
- Tetanus: This serious illness arises from the “Clostridium tetani” bacterium, found in soil, saliva, dust, and manure. It can enter the body through deep cysts, wounds, or burns affecting the nervous system. The infection leads to painful muscle contractions, especially of the jaw and neck muscle.
- Typhoid: This is a life-threatening infection caused by the “Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi” (or simply “Salmonella Typhi”) bacterium. It is usually spread through ingesting contaminated food or water, which arises when there’s poor sanitation or a lack of clean drinking water.
- Hepatitis A: This is a liver disease arising from the “Hepatitis A” virus, which an uninfected person can get when ingesting food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. It’s the result of unclean water or food sources, poor sanitation, as well as oral-anal sex.
- Hepatitis B: This is a potentially life-threatening liver disease from the “Hepatitis B” virus, which can cause chronic infection, resulting in a high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. It can be spread through exposure to infected blood. For instance, needle stick injury, tattooing, piercing, as well as other exposure to infected blood and body fluids like saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids.
Expats staying in rural areas
In addition to the above vaccines, if you’re staying in rural areas, you’ll also need to consider vaccines for the following five diseases:
- Tuberculosis: This disease is caused by the “Mycobacterium tuberculosis” bacteria, which most commonly affects the lungs. It is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or spits. When a nearby person inhales the germs, they will become infected with the disease.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This disease is a flavivirus, which is transmitted to humans from the bites of infected mosquitoes of the “Culex” species. Most infections are mild, causing a fever and headache, or even without symptoms. However, approximately 1 in 250 infections results in a severe clinical illness.
- Cholera: This is an acute diarrheal infection, arising due to ingestion of food or water contaminated with the “Vibrio cholerae” bacterium. While the majority only get mild or moderate symptoms, a minority develop acute watery diarrhea with severe dehydration. If not treated, this can result in death within hours.
- Malaria: This disease is caused by “Plasmodium parasites”, which spreads through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The first symptoms are typical fever, headaches, and chills, which may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. However, if left untreated, it can progress to severe illness within 24 hours and often lead to death.
- Dengue Fever: This disease is a viral one, spreading by the bites of female mosquitoes of the species “Aedes aegypti” and, to a lesser extent, “Ae. albopictus”. It usually causes flu-like symptoms. While less common, it can also lead to severe bleeding, organ impairment, and/or plasma leakage. This form has a higher risk of death, if not treated appropriately.
Expats hiking and trekking in the country
Likewise, for those planning to hike and trek throughout the country, you’ll need to consider a further vaccine:
- Rabies: This is a viral disease which can be transmitted from the bite or scratch of an infected animal. In up to 99% of cases, it is domestic dogs that are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. However, rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals. Once clinical symptoms appear, such as muscle spasm, seizures, confusion, etc, rabies is fatal in almost 100% of cases.
Vaccination costs in Thailand: What your options are and how much you’ll pay
You can either get vaccinated in your home country or Thailand. If you choose to do so in Thailand, you can either visit public and private hospitals or clinics, which forms the country’s healthcare system. While both public and private hospitals are excellent, the latter affords expats with far more convenience and world-class amenities. However, they are also significantly more expensive.
As a reference, you can check out vaccination costs at the Thai Travel Clinic based at Mahidol University:
- Adult Tetanus+diphtheria+pertussis (Tdap): 664 THB
- Typhoid vaccine (Typhim Vi®): 511 THB
- Hepatitis A+B (Twinrix®): 1,065 THB
- Cholera vaccine (Dukoral®): 759 THB
- And more.
If you’d prefer not to pay for vaccines out of pocket, you should consider securing expat health insurance in Thailand. Although the vaccination costs are not exorbitant, having an international health insurance plan will enable you to get coverage for healthcare treatments wherever you are in the world, bringing you the peace of mind you need when living abroad.
You can head over to our compare health insurance page to learn how to assess health insurance plans in Thailand. When you’re ready to secure health insurance, or if you’d simply like to speak to someone about your options, you can get in touch with our expert health insurance advisors for an unbiased consultation and no-obligation quote.
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Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
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