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Vaccinations

Specific information will be provided by the clinic on each of the vaccines and the possible side effects you may get. Generally the side effects are minor – modern vaccines cause fewer problems than in the past – however it is better to have vaccines well in advance of departure just in case there are any side effects.

Some side effects that could occur include:

  • Fainting: Those people most likely to faint are 20 to 29-year-old men of above average height, receiving a Tetanus or ADT vaccine plus another vaccine. If you have a history of fainting after injections, make sure you tell the doctor. You will need to lie down during vaccination and for up to ten minutes afterwards.
  • Allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis): Allergic reactions are rare but may be very serious. After vaccinations, notify your doctor immediately if you feel:
    • warm
    • itchy (or develop a rash) away from the injection site
    • faint (especially on standing up) or dizzy
    • short of breath, or develop wheeze or cough
    • swelling develop in throat, face, hands or limbs
    • suddenly tired

    Symptoms usually develop within 30 minutes of vaccination, (hence the need to wait in the clinic after receiving certain vaccines especially Yellow Fever). Occasionally allergic symptoms occur up to 10 days later (especially Japanese Encephalitis). If you develop one or more of the above symptoms within 10 days, immediately call your doctor or go to the nearest casualty department or well equipped medical centre.

    Persons with allergies to eggs cannot have vaccines against Yellow Fever, Flu, and sometimes measles, mumps, or rubella. Travellers with penicillin allergy can be vaccinated safely.

  • Sore, red injection site: Usually vaccinations cause nothing more serious than a sore arm for a few days. If you keep your arm moving, it will help ease the soreness. The ADT injection may cause a deep lump or hardness which persists for a few weeks. If your arm is red, hot and/or sore, place an ice pack over the affected area. You may take paracetamol. Intradermal vaccines (e.g. Rabies) may cause itchiness at the injection site and a small surface lump which may persist for weeks. Usually vaccines are given in your non-writing arm, however if you always sleep on one side it is better to have the vaccines in the other side.
  • Fevers and feeling sick: Yellow Fever vaccine (Stamaril) may cause a slight fever, headache, tiredness, and muscle aches in 2-10% of persons, starting 3-9 days after vaccination. MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) may cause a fever in 5-15% of persons, starting 5-12 days after vaccination, along with a temporary rash in 5% persons. The old Typhoid/Cholera combination made many persons feel very ‘unwell’. The new ‘dead’ vaccines do not generally cause fevers. The Flu vaccine in particular is ‘dead’ and cannot cause you to develop influenza, runny nose or sore throat. If you develop a fever or become unwell after vaccination, call the doctor who gave you the vaccines.
  • Diarrhoea or stomach problems: The oral Typhoid (capsules) may cause mild to moderate nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhoea within 12-24 hours after taking each capsule. These side effects may be minimised by taking each dose with 2 glasses of water.

If you have any concerns contact the doctor who gave you the vaccines.

Will vaccines weaken my immune system?

Careful investigations have shown there is absolutely no evidence for any ‘weakening’ of the immune system. The vaccines are a ‘drop in the bucket’ compared to what one’s immune system is exposed to every day. A little bit of ‘immune exercise’ is probably very good for the immune system. Vaccinations are recommended when the risk of the disease is much greater than the risk from the vaccine.

What if I have a cold?

It is safe to be vaccinated while you have a bit of a runny nose, sore throat or cough. Delay vaccination if you have a fever over 39°C or if you are sick enough to be in bed.

Can I drink alcohol after vaccines?

If you are having Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, you must avoid ‘more than your usual’ alcohol for 48 hours after each dose. However it is okay to have alcohol in the 48 hours after other vaccinations – however, stay under the legal limit – approximately one standard drink per hour. If taking Typhoid capsules, alcohol (or food) must not be taken within a few hours of each capsule.

The myth about “no alcohol after receiving vaccines” is just that – a myth. It apparently started because army recruits used to get a day off to recover after receiving numerous vaccines – and what did the army recruits do when they had the day off? They went to the pub and got drunk and obnoxious, so the army advised them not to drink any alcohol for 48 hours after their vaccines!

 

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