Back in spring, I started researching vaccine requirements for the trip (the non-Covid ones). This past week we started seeing this research turn into reality as the family got a bunch of shots. The process has been interesting and chock-full of learnings.
For context, I went ahead and started my vaccination progress back in April. We decided I would try and figure out the best way to get it done and then the other family members would follow suit. I went online, found a local travel clinic, did a consultation and then signed up for a bunch of shots. The consult was done over the phone and it felt like a business transaction. A bunch of forms were sent back and forth with details of the trip, my medical history and personal information. It did not really feel like a medical appointment. Regardless, I checked some boxes, got some shots and spent some money. For the rest of the family, we decided to do a “family” consultation with a different travel clinic. It was eye-opening as I thought it would be standard across the clinics. Fortunately, the recommendations were consistent across the two, but the education, cost and service were very different. We decided to get the family’s battery of tests through the second clinic. My personal takeaway is that even though the situation was really a one-and-done type scenario, it makes sense to shop around. Yes, we ended up paying a couple consultation fees but our peace of mind and cost savings justified that expense.
As mentioned, I learnt a lot from these visits and research. I’m not saying the process is complicated but since it is not a frequent occurrence for the average individual there can be a lot to absorb and some things can get missed.
As always I gravitate to the financial side but this is what I have learned the last few months about the process:
- If you have some gaps in your vaccine history (i.e. documentation) and aren’t sure if you are “vaccinated” against a particular disease, a test can be run to determine if you have immunity. The end result is when I get asked if I need a certain shot, I can confidently state yes or no. The whole “I think so” situation no longer presents itself.
- Government policy and guidance can change in regards to vaccine advice by region. One month, they might indicate travellers to region X should get a specific vaccine. Maybe six months later, that disease might no longer be prevalent in that area and vaccination is no longer required. For us, we enjoyed reading the updates from the Canadian government here and have it as a bookmark we periodically check.
- The impact of Covid on your vaccinations can change. During my vaccinations, I had to wait to ensure no overlap with Covid. For the most recent ones, there was no need to wait. Things are fluid on this front.
- The costs can vary significantly. I don’t know why but I thought the vaccines would be the same price everywhere (I attribute this to my ignorance of health care costs in Canada). In some instances, it was 20% cheaper at one clinic than another. I don’t begin to understand why but getting it through my family doctor resulted in the least amount of insurance reimbursement. A family of four, multiple vaccines, a variance of 20% in price could cover a week’s accommodation on our trip.
- Phone your insurance provider before to see what is and what isn’t covered. And then submit an actual estimate. The original line we got was 100% of the cost was covered. Sounds amazing but it came with some qualifier around “an acceptable cost entered in the system”. I couldn’t even begin to understand what they were talking about and no one would tell me what they “would accept” as a reasonable cost. But when you are going to drop a thousand bucks on a battery of vaccines it is good to know if it is actually going to be offset or not. True story, a single dose of rabies vaccine was something like $300, the insurance was going to cover like $5. We would not have know that if we hadn’t submitted an estimate. The 100% coverage claim would have really put us in a tough spot if we hadn’t cleared up the details.
- Keep documentation of everything. From receipts, DIN#s, vaccination records. For some reason so little is digitized and it is painful to keep track. Plus, the receipts came in handy for all the insurance paperwork that goes back and forth.
- Pay attention to medical deductions for vaccinations on your taxes. The main reason, we got them so far ahead of time was that this was the first year, we would ever reach the threshold for medical expenses on our federal taxes. It sounds boring, but getting a bunch of medical stuff (including the battery of vaccinations) in a single 12 month period, helped us with our taxes.
- It can be a long process. Some of the shots require multiple rounds of shots. Sometimes you don’t know your current immunity and getting lab results back can take time. The extra time we’ve given ourselves has really helped on this front.
What was the final result for me? I’m not trying to push anything but below are the shots I ended up getting for the areas we plan to attend. All the other “vaccine requirements” I had received previously throughout my life (school covered the majority of what was needed).
Yellow Fever – I got a fancy special yellow certificate for that one. Yep, a stiff, yellow piece of paper.
Japanese Encephalities – That one was expensive.
Typhoid – I had gotten it years before but it was no longer valid.
Hep A – I probably had started this process twice before in my life. This time I got the requisite two shots in the correct time period.
I decided against rabies. I understand the logic behind getting it. But in the end, I will follow the main piece of advice from every doctor I have spoken to about this. I will not play with the monkeys.
Ciao for now