Navigating Health and Safety to Travel Abroad

Americans love to travel and for many local residents, traveling abroad is the ultimate vacation. For some, it is a yearly holiday, for others, an adventure of a lifetime.

For experienced travelers and novices alike, there are often concerns about health and safety. These concerns shouldn't discourage you from traveling to destinations outside of the U.S.

A common issue associated with visiting a foreign destination is the potential risks of infectious disease. Being vaccinated will help keep you safe and healthy while you’re traveling. Immunization also helps to make sure that you don’t bring any serious diseases home to your family, friends and community.

Understanding the risks, finding valuable information, and forming a plan for protection can be a daunting task - and far less exciting than browsing photos of sandy beaches and exotic foods.

Fortunately, there are resources to help tourists navigate the process. The answers to common questions about travel immunization can be found within our local community. This guidance offers peace of mind and will ensure your healthy return.

Jeffrey T. Moore, RPh, is the pharmacist-in-charge at Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy. With a wealth of knowledge, Moore and his team of pharmacists can provide would-be travelers with a number of services.
"We sit down with the patient and evaluate their travel plans,” Moore explains. “We then come up with a personalized health plan for the traveler. We will evaluate the need for any vaccines based on the travel plans."

This personalized evaluation is important because, as Moore indicates, "some countries have requirements for certain vaccines, others are recommended and some are suggested based on activity or area visited in the country. Each country has a recommended list of vaccines established by the CDC. While there is an overlap many times, different countries and even different areas of a country vary."

Adjusting the health plan for individuals, using the most recent information, is another important factor. "Many times there are disease outbreaks in these countries. The CDC daily updates any known status. The recommendations may change and additional vaccines may be suggested," said Moore.

Vacationers should start the process well in advance of their travel date. Taking early action allows for the needed time that is required for the best protection. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services stresses the importance of getting vaccinated at least 4-6 weeks before you travel. This will give the vaccines time to start working, so you’re protected while you’re traveling. It will also usually make sure there’s enough time for you to get vaccines that require more than one dose.

"Ideally we like to begin as soon as possible,” Moore advises. “We like to set up a convenient time to evaluate the travelers' needs. This gives us time to contact any physicians and to work with any dosing schedules that may be involved with the vaccines/medicine," adding, "It also helps put the traveler's mind at ease."

No doctor's referral is needed to start the process, but communication between the pharmacy staff and a patient's doctor are often helpful and sometimes required. "Many times we need to contact the patient's physician to obtain permission to vaccinate. That is a big reason to start as soon as possible," Moore added.

"After the initial evaluation, we work with the patient and their physician to administer and or acquire the appropriate regimen for the individual here at the pharmacy", he said.

It is important to mention that the healthcare services for travelers extend beyond an immunization schedule. The team at PH Community Pharmacy addresses the entire scope of travel-related health concerns for those seeking the experience of a foreign destination.

"In addition, we can evaluate any other medication needs such as medication for travelers’ diarrhea and any other non-vaccine preventable diseases, counsel the patient on a variety of travel needs such as eating and drinking safely, maintaining personal safety and how to get medical care while abroad,” he said. “We alert the patient to any travel notices and obtain a travel packing list for the journey."

Adding to the comprehensive list of health-related resources Moore noted, "We also will help direct the patients in any direction they may need with their travel needs based on experience or having contacts in the travel industry."

At this time, there are no fees for the initial consultation and evaluation. The costs involved are based on the cost of the vaccine and the associated administration. "We work to see if your insurance will cover any portion of the vaccine and the administration,” Moore said.

Those seeking more information, or those wanting to set up a time for an evaluation, are encouraged to contact Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy at 814-375-6165.