Vaccinations on table

Southern Africa: Shots

We recently got our shots for southern Africa. Below is a list of the vaccinations you’ll likely need if heading in that direction.

Countries Covered

Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Vaccinations Needed

Hep A: Liver disease most easily transferable as it is done so through food and drink. You need a primary dose and then a booster shot and you’ll be good for life. ($65, then $45 for booster. Also available as Twinrix with Hep B, $75 x 3 doses, or Vivaxim with Typhoid, $115).

Hep B: Liver disease transferable through blood or saliva. Seems unlikely but this could mean if someone spits in your eye, or you have a cut and someone’s spit or blood touches you, etc. If you went to school in Canada, you should be covered for Hep B. Otherwise, you’ll be required to get it. ($40 x 3 doses. Also available as Twinrix with Hep A, $75).

Measles/Mumps/Rubella: You need a live vaccine that you would’ve likely gotten as a child; however, as they are good for only 10 years, it might be time for a booster shot. If yours has expired, you’ll be required to get it. ($40).

Typhoid: Fever after ingesting food contaminated with human feces. Sounds gross, but in the developing countries that still use this as fertilizer, totally possible.  The shot will have you vaccinated for two years. ($45, or $55, see below).

Advice: Get this in your non-dominant arm, because it will be sore.

Also: There are a series of four pills you can take that are only slightly more expensive and will protect you for five years. I’m not a fan of pills myself, but if I hadn’t misunderstood the duration difference, I would’ve probably spared myself the pain and just got the pills.

Tetanus/Diptheria/Polio: A trifecta of infectious diseases. I didn’t need the Dip/Polio this time as I got that for my SEA trip, but I did need it for the Tetanus shot. One of the more painful ones. ($15).

Yellow Fever: Acute viral disease causing pain and fever. This is not required anywhere in southern Africa, but many countries require proof of vaccination in case you are coming from a country at risk. Not worth risking having to get this shot on the spot. ($130).

Rabies: No one survives rabies, so you need to get to the hospital immediately if you think you’ve been scratched, bitten, licked, etc., by an animal with rabies. That said, at three required doses within a 21 day span, and $180 a pop, it’s not a very popular vaccine. It is recommended if you’ll be somewhere far away from the nearest clinic or hospital; however, the vaccine will only buy you time, not immunity. You still need to get to the hospital within 24 hours where you’ll get two post-exposure shots. If you don’t have the vaccine, you’ll get four shots (two pre- and the two post-exposure ones). We did not get this. ($180 x 3 doses).

Malaria: From what I’ve heard, you don’t want to get malaria. Lots of options for prevention though, some expensive, some less so. I’ve gotten a pack of pills for $10 in Chiang Mai, Thailand and was fine (I did check for the ingredients), but some might not want to risk that. Pills can be done on schedule so as to coincide with times when you are in at-risk locations; however, as our trip is not set to specific locations or dates, attempting such a schedule would be nearly impossible. We went with Mefloquine, which is taken orally once a week (so less ingestion), and we’ll start it when we leave South Africa.

Note: Known to give you crazy dreams.

Also: Read the instructions, and unless otherwise noted, eat something beforehand! I’ve gotten extremely nauseous a few times before I noticed the pattern.

Dukoral: A vaccine, not a disease. Not really noted anywhere, but recommended to us for Ecoli and Cholera, the most common of the traveler problems: food poisoning from contaminated food and water causing diarrhea, vomiting, etc. A pack of two drinks, taken one week apart, two weeks prior to the trip. Covers Ecoli for 3 months and Cholera for 2 years. ($85).

*IMPORTANT: We had an assessment done by a healthcare professional to determine which shots we actually needed, which were required and which were optional. Please consult a professional before deciding which vaccines to get – there were many that we would’ve missed if it had been up to us!

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