Last week, we received this inquiry from a reader. There is lots of confusion about what types of vaccinations are needed. Months ago, we published Super Germ-Fighting Family that covered some of the concerns and decisions we made about health, before we moved here.
Ecuador Vaccinations: What Vaccines Do I Need in Cuenca Ecuador?
Reader question: I am wondering what vaccinations you had or recommend having prior to arriving in Cuenca. I will arrive sometime in June. My travel office here is saying I need the following to the tune of about $350 US dollars – is that true or do I need only some?
- Yellow fever
- Malaria pills
- Hep A/B
Thanks so much for your advice…..
Good question. From our experience, the travel clinics don’t really know what they are talking about. They have books and charts, but they are only good for sticking the needles, not telling you the ones you need. And they (the for-profit ones, at least) have a significant conflict of interest – where the more needles they give, the more they get to charge you.
If you are coming (only) to Cuenca, Ecuador you don’t need to worry about yellow fever (its east, in the jungle) or malaria (its primarily west, on the coast, but can exist in the jungle).
Typhoid is a good idea, and isn’t too expensive. Tetanus should be up-to-date where you live, as should Hep A/B. They are just standard ones, regardless of where you live. Diphtheria is a standard vaccine, I believe.
When we moved, we even got rabies shots. They are crazy expensive, and as it turns out, we didn’t really need them. Our vaccines (in Canada) for the 3 of us, cost more than $2000. Ouch!
About Yellow Fever: If you don’t get the shot, there are some limits on where you can travel from Ecuador. Like, for example, just about everywhere else in South America. The other countries don’t care that you were only in Cuenca – because Ecuador has it, they consider you as having it, unless you can produce the certificate to show that you have the shot. If you are returning to Canada or the United States, its not a concern.
Please keep in mind that I am NOT a doctor. I am only sharing my experience. Do your research and talk to the clinic again. We called a couple different clinics and ended up going with the most knowledgeable one. Hope this helps.
Note: This post is not about common vaccines like the flu shot or childhood vaccines. It for travelers who are concerned about protecting themselves from things like rabies and typhoid.
Vaccinations are often a necessary part of traveling or living abroad. They are never pleasant, but some things can make them easier to take. Here are some things that helped us:
Becoming Superheroes (Superheroes don’t freak-out in front of their kids)
Before we moved to Ecuador we checked out the Center for Disease Control to see what types of things we would need to be vaccinated against. We did this as a family so our daughter would understand the importance of the vaccinations.
When she understood clearly what the consequences could be if we didn’t get them, she jumped on board and was ready to become a member of the “Super Germ Fighting Family.” (You’ll have to read about that below).
Joking around about gaining superhero germ fighting powers from the vaccinations, helped keep things light. Once we all had the same focus and determination we made the initial appointment with a travel clinic.
Often the way we as parents react to things determines the way our children react to them. Sometimes we react irrationally to situations, and that reaction is out of our control. If we realize that of ourselves, we can give our kids a wonderful gift by enabling them not to have a similar reaction.
It might mean leaving the room to freak out, or making separate appointments. Appointments where one spouse (or a really close friend) that does not have a problem with needles, goes in with the child. And the other spouse makes a separate appointment, going in with another supportive adult.
Focusing Past the Needle: Before we went to the actual pin-poking appointment we did some things to help ease the anticipation of the appointment. We told Drew that we would take her to one of her favorite places right after the appointment. This gave her the power to focus past the appointment to the fun she would have.
5 Ways to Focus Past the Needle:
- Bring a favorite (food or drink) treat to enjoy right after the needle.
- Wrap up a small surprise gift, which you tell your child they can unwrap right after they have the needle.
- Make a “Super Germ Fighter” certificate to give to your child right after. Make sure to put lots of shiny stickers on it.
- Promise a trip to one of their favorite places (restaurant, bookstore, park . . .) right after.
- Make a checklist chart of all the vaccinations needed and promise a tempting reward once all check marks are received.
What About The Pain?! Often the fear of the pain from a needle is worse than the actual pain, so it’s important to be honest about the it. We told Drew that it was going to hurt, but that it would be over really fast. That it would be OK to cry, and that we might cry too. We also told her that some needles hurt more than others, and maybe the one she was about to get would not hurt much at all. Talking to her about this before the appointment helped her prepare herself in a realistic way.
Some things can be done to ease the pain as well, here are a few suggestions:
How To Ease the Pain
- A patch or topical anesthetic cream can be applied 30 to 60 minutes before. (Make sure on the initial visit to the clinic that you ask where the injection site will be)
- Look away. It always helps me.
- Be relaxed, especially making sure the muscles in the given arm are relaxed. Bringing along something to listen to (some favorite music or a story) could really help with relaxation. Our daughter loves having Audible stories with her.
- Make sure the one getting the needle sees smiling faces looking back at them.
- Talk about anything but the needle, like the fun things you are going to do after your appointment. Telling them everything will be OK, or about how brave they are while they are sitting there could make it worse, causing them to focus on things not being OK, and them not being brave.
- Go first. If you don’t have a problem with needles, it could really help if your child sees you take your shot with class.
As it turns out Drew didn’t have much of a problem with the needles at all, she didn’t even cry. The treat afterward really helped her, as did the anticipation of going to one of her favorite places to hang out – Chapters bookstore.
We hope some of the suggestions in this post will help you and your family as well. Do you have any tips or tricks to add? Please share in the comments.
Super Germ-Fighting Family: Our Experience
After choosing Ecuador as our destination, it was time to take on the germ fighters. So we checked with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, and then made an appointment with a travel clinic.
There was a charge for our initial consultation and recommendations. After that it was the cost for the shots themselves.
We received shots for Typhoid, Hep A & B, MMR, Rabies and Paranoia. The last one would have been priceless if it had been in stock, sadly it wasn’t, but we are making out just fine without it.
Although we understood that Rabies was practically nonexistent in the area we would be living, we tended to experience the symptoms of Paranoia on a regular basis when planning this move, so the rabies vaccine now pumps through our veins.
We were happy to find out that the research we had done on Malaria proved true, and we would not have to worry about anti Malaria meds. Malaria does not exist above 5000 feet, and Cuenca sits pretty at just about 8500.
We were concerned about what weird side effects would befall us from all of these concoctions surging through us, but other than a sore arm and reduced pocket book – all was well.
I also spoke with a Naturopath about some health concerns. She was really excited for me and felt that my health would actually improve from the fresh air in the Andes, the organic fruit and veggies, free range chicken and grass fed beef. Turns out she was right. She also told me about a couple of handy little products, first up was Citricidal (GSE). It’s a concentrate of grapefruit seed extract and we use it to soak all of our fruit and veggies because it kills the germs. We use it all the time and avoid much sickness because of it. We stocked up before we arrived so we could enjoy fresh fruit and veggies right away without having to hunt for the Citricidal. Fortunately it is sold at the grocery stores here in Cuenca, so we have a ready supply when ours runs out. The brand here is called Kilol.
The second was Betaine HCL (Hydrochloride) and Pepsin pills. If we come into contact with any questionable food we just pop one or two, and they go to work eating up all the nasty gastronomically upsetting germs in the tum-tum.
With the immunization concerns out of the way we were feeling like the “Super Germ Fighting Family” ready to take on this strange and exciting unknown world of Ecuador.