When I moved to Thailand to teach English a decade ago, I didn’t get vaccinated for anything. That’s because I was teaching in Bangkok, a city that is hardly a thriving metropolis for malaria or dengue fever. If you are moving abroad to teach English, however, depending on which country you will be teaching in and where, you may need to be vaccinated with one, two or more vaccines before you leave.
Here are a few things to think about as far as which vaccines you may need before teaching abroad and if indeed you need them.
Make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date – While you may not need a vaccination for yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria or polio before you leave to teach abroad, you should make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date before you leave.
That is vaccinations for diseases like influenza, measles, diptheria, chickenpox, polio and tetanus. You can find out which vaccinations you should probably have on the CDC Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule, and then check with your doctor as to which vaccinations he recommends.
Where will you be teaching? – Although I didn’t have extra vaccinations against any diseases before I left for Thailand, other than the routine vaccinations I always have, that’s because I knew I was going to spend the vast majority of my time in Bangkok and not upcountry in a more rural area or in the Thai jungle.
If I had been teaching at a Thai school in a more out of the way rural spot, however, chances are I would probably have decided to be vaccinated against malaria as this is a risk from mosquito bites and is recommended by the CDC.
If you are teaching in a major city in China, Argentina, Saudi Arabia or Mexico, you may decide not to have any vaccinations at all. If you will be working at a school located off the beaten track, however, it may behove you to check the CDC website for that particular country and decide upon the vaccinations you will need.
What’s your general health like? – If you are very healthy and have no existing health conditions, you may decide not to have elective vaccinations before you leave. If, however, you already have existing health conditions and a bout of the flu or measles could be very serious, make sure you are vaccinated before you leave.
Remember as well, doctors don’t recommend certain vaccines if you have pre-existing conditions like diabetes, asthma, an immunodeficiency, or have had a past allergic reaction to a particular vaccine. Again, check with your doctor as to those vaccines he suggests you avoid.
Where else will you be traveling? – Just because you will be teaching in Moscow, it doesn’t mean you won’t be traveling to more isolated Russian towns or be leaving Russia completely and traveling to other countries. After all, once you’re in Europe, Asia or South America, it can often be cheap to fly to a neighboring country and many western teachers do so.
Think about the countries you could feasibly visit while you are abroad teaching, and make sure you check on any vaccinations recommended for those as well.
Yellow fever – Some countries in Africa, South America and Central America do have a problem with yellow fever, which is spread by mosquito bites. If you are teaching in one of these countries, it may be mandatory for you to have a vaccination against yellow fever before you will even be allowed to teach there.
Check with the embassy of the country you will be teaching in and, if you do, make sure you take your certificate with you once you’ve had the vaccination, as you will need to prove it’s been done before you can get your work permit.
Your school will not cover the cost of vaccinations – Do remember, while your school will often cover the cost of work permits, visas, airfares and, in some cases, apartments, it’s highly unlikely they will cover the cost of any vaccinations you decide to get.
As vaccinations can be expensive, make sure you check the cost of each one at a local clinic, at your doctor’s office and at an area hospital, as the fees they charge can differ drastically.
Most importantly, if you do decide you want to be vaccinated at a later date, or discover you should have been before you left, you should be able to get any vaccination you need at a hospital in the town you are teaching in or one close by.