How do I get vaccinated for travel to West Africa?
December 18, 2006 5:52 PM   Subscribe

I have the opportunity to visit West Africa, but I do not have health insurance or a doctor. How do I go about getting the vaccinations needed, and how much will it cost?

The details: I would be going to Dakar, Senegal. The trip would be in February. I am in northern Virginia.

The CDC has a guide, but I don't have a doctor to ask, as they suggest. Can I just go to a clinic or something?
posted by Nothing to Travel & Transportation around (8 answers total)
Passport Health. There is one in Manassas. I do not know how much it costs, though. Also, I have never used them, so I don't endorse them or anything. I just know that what you need is what they do.
posted by Airhen at 5:57 PM on December 18, 2006

Please get yourself some insurance. If you get seriously ill you will not get good treatment without it. Get a job with benefits, buy catastrophic coverage, whatever, just get covered.
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on December 18, 2006

definitely check your local governmental/civic agencies. San Francisco, for example, has a city-run travel immunization clinic. i imagine there's something similar in DC.
posted by gnutron at 6:21 PM on December 18, 2006

Yes, the keywords you're looking for are "travel immunization". You should be able to find travel clinics run by a local hospital or city/county health dept.

Check your credit card for travel insurance benefits. If you're lucky, they offer some coverage including a provision for medical emergency. Though if at all possible, pick up a supplemental policy. It's nowhere near as hard/expensive to get as a regular health plan (because it's only major medical, not for routine care or chronic illness). If you have a serious injury or illness that far from home, you will be very grateful for having enough coverage to make sure that you get healed AND home.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2006

Travel Immunizations are frequently performed by city health clinics, mostly because of the limited availability of Yellow Fever vaccine.

Here's the list of sites in Virginia. The sites run by a local government aren't usually any cheaper than the ones run by hospitals or private clinics. Adult travel immunization is usually seen as something that helps to subsidize other public health programs, because if you can afford the plane ticket, you can afford the shots. Expect to pay $200-400 depending on what shots you need.

Your insurance situation isn't so important for this purpose, as few insurance carriers actually cover adult immunizations for travel purposes. Some will cover the Hepatitis A/B series and tetanus if given at your doctor's office, but in truth, these shots cost less than a month's premium. (If you're living in an urban area in the US, you should have the Hep A/B shots, we don't like to publicize it, but Hepatitis occurs frequently in the US, and those two strains are completely preventable through immunization)

You should be carrying insurance at home (though it probably won't cover you overseas), and you should really pick up a travel policy, in case you need to be evacuated from Africa. I've purchased policies from before, and they've been fairly cheap. Though they may be geared more towards expats and long-term travelers.
posted by toxic at 7:14 PM on December 18, 2006

Health insurance probably won't pay for travel immunizations. When I called my physician to ask about getting the shots, he told me to go to the county health clinic.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:16 PM on December 18, 2006

I second the local county health clinic. They offer standard vaccinations for significantly cheaper than you would pay in a doctor's office. I know from personal experience that the Health Department in Central VA offers vaccinations (you'll definitely need Hep A+B vaccinations for sure), and I'm pretty sure that the one in N. Va would as well.

Oh, look: this page listing clinics in Fairfax clearly lists "International Travel" as one of their services. You will need to make an appointment.

I belive the vaccines will cost on the order of $10-20 each, which is well worth it.

You don't need health insurance, but you do absolutely need travel insurance, for which I recommend World Nomads, which is well suited to short term travel. Very cheap rates, excellent website. It's very easy to get your insurance info and you can sign up for insurance at any time (but I believe it takes a day or two for coverage to kick in, so don't try to buy it *after* something bad happens).

Also, even if you don't have health insurance, you should get a doctor. Even in Nova there must be some clinics serving the poor. I'm guessing that's why you don't have insurance.

Also, if you're young and don't smoke, individual health insurance can be surprisingly inexpensive, and lets you do things like get a free cleaning at the dentist's and coverage for a physical (which you'll want to have before travelling).
posted by Deathalicious at 9:41 PM on December 18, 2006

Best answer: There is a place in Rosslyn called Capital Travel Medicine, I went there before I went to China, and my siblings used it before they went to Honduras, and we are satisfied. Dont know about cost though, had insurance at the time.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:20 AM on December 19, 2006

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