In New Zealand vaccination against common illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis and the flu can be a contentious topic. It’s a personal choice and one some people choose not to make for a number of reasons; some quite justifiably and some based on incorrect facts and assumptions.
Although measles has been present in New Zealand for the past couple of years, our relatively high vaccination rates across the wider population offers ‘herd immunity’ meaning those who aren’t vaccinated still have some degree of protection because those diseases are rarely seen and outbreaks are infrequent. If they do occur, the number of vaccinated people getting sick is pretty low.
But in developing countries that’s not the case.
The deadly measles outbreak during 2019 in Samoa is a good case in point – only 26 per cent of the population was fully immunised and health officials have scrambled to vaccinate as many people as possible. Dozens of young children have died unnecessarily in this epidemic which has now also spread to other Pacific Islands.
Making sure your vaccinations are up-to-date is an important part of preparing to volunteer overseas. It not only protects your health, but the health of the people you are visiting and working alongside. No one wants to be the person responsible for spreading a highly contagious illness (including the flu) among the community you were trying to help, potentially causing harm and even death.
That’s why it’s Volunteer Build’s policy for all volunteers to vaccinate against preventable diseases (including the flu) before departure. If you are anti-vaccination for whatever reason, then unfortunately our trips are not for you.
What to do:
- Check your medical records with your local GP (even dig out your old Plunket book if you have it!) to see what vaccinations you’ve already had. Many vaccinations have expiry dates so you may need a booster.
- Ask your volunteer organisation for a list of vaccinations that are required for your particular destination. Double check this list with your local doctor or a specialist travel doctor and take your trip programme and itinerary so they know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. Some handy websites for information on vaccinations needed for different countries can be found at www.traveldoctor.com.au; https://www.travelvaccinationclinic.com.au/destinations-advice; https://worldwise.co.nz/travel-vaccinations