If you are planning an overseas trip this summer, you may want to think about protecting your health while abroad.

With the onset of the much warmer weather in Qatar and the school holidays beckoning, many residents decide to take a vacation overseas. 

And while it may not be the most obvious or joyous of things to think about, those wishing to travel abroad should consider whether they need to be vaccinated against certain diseases. These may be necessary for the traveller depending on the individual’s health and where they choose to travel to.

This is where Hamad Medical Corporation’s Travel Clinic at the Communicable Diseases Center can assist you. HMC’s first such travel-related clinic opened in 2017 and offers a comprehensive service to travellers, providing counselling, vaccinations and other preventative measures before they set off. Since opening, the clinic has seen 1,700 patients.

Travel medicine services are also available at a number of primary healthcare centres, and some private hospitals and clinics.

Vaccinations are typically free, unless it is highly specialised (for example Japanese Encephalitis) and the clinic offers services to both citizens and residents with a valid health card, including those at higher risk – children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. 

Entities such as the World Health Organization, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, and the National Health Service in the UK recommend getting travel advice and vaccinations anything from four to eight weeks prior to the travel date. The Travel Clinic advises people to come at least two weeks before the travel date, as this allows the vaccinations to develop the resistance power within the body. Some vaccines also involve a number of doses spread over several weeks.

Travellers wishing to enter certain countries require specific vaccinations. According to Dr Mohamed Abu Khattab, a specialist consultant in communicable diseases and travel medicine at HMC, ‘Pre-travel consultations are helpful because in addition to providing vaccines, travel medicine specialists can recommend medication to manage travel-related illnesses, such as diarrhoea, malaria, and motion or altitude sickness, as well as provide personalised travel health advice including highlighting potential exposures to infectious diseases, and other risks.

‘Pre-travel consultations provide an opportunity to educate travellers about any health risks they may encounter at their destination and travel medicine specialists can help prioritise vaccination and other healthcare needs. The typical pre-travel consultation includes a comprehensive risk assessment and may also include a physical examination.’

Pre-travel counselling is of particular importantance for travellers with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and immunosuppressed conditions, and is especially necessary if they are travelling to countries with a high prevalence of infectious diseases.

Specific advice and counselling is also given to travellers who plan to embark on activities such as diving and mountain climbing or even take a cruise. As well as the individual’s age and health, other things to consider include whether there will be contact with animals, travelling to remote/rural areas, and taking a long trip visiting a number of places. 

Those using the clinic’s services will be given a certificate of vaccination, which is required for travel to some countries, as well as disease prevention advice for the countries they are visiting. This is important in situations such as those arriving for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages as Saudi Arabia requires proof of vaccination against certain types of meningitis. Other countries may require proof of vaccination for such things as polio or yellow fever. This is because the country in question will want to stop visitors from bringing a disease into the country.

If you’re travelling to countries in northern and central Europe, North America or Australia, it is unlikely that you will need any vaccinations. However, the clinic can advise if you need booster vaccines for any previous routine vaccinations that you may have had in your home country – or you can be innoculated if you haven’t had them at all. 

Even if proof of vaccination isn’t required, it is recommended that you take a record of the vaccinations you have had with you.

Should the worst happen and you fall sick after your holiday, the clinic also provides assessment and medical care for those returning from trips overseas with travel-related infections. Anyone suffering from conditions such as persistent diarrhoea, rash and fever should immediately visit the Travel Clinic.

For more information visit hamad.qa and click on Hospitals and Services for the Communicable Disease Center and the Travel Clinic.

Vaccinations available at the Travel Clinic include:

  Meningococcal disease •  Rabies •  Typhoid fever    Measles, mumps, rubella •  Haemophilus influenzae
type B •  Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (TdaP) •  Tetanus    Yellow fever •  Hepatitis A    Hepatitis B
  Pneumococcal    Seasonal influenza •  Polio    Varicella (chickenpox)

The Travel Clinic is open at these times – to book an appointment call 4025 4003:

• Monday: noon – 3 pm 

• Wednesday and Thursday:  8 am –  11 am 

Author: Sarah Palmer

Copyright © Marhaba Information Guide. Reproduction of material from Marhaba Information Guide’s book or website without written permission is strictly prohibited. Using Marhaba Information Guide’s material without authorisation constitutes as plagiarism as well as copyright infringement.