Travel vaccines are nothing new. Don’t be alarmed!

It looks like some articles are floating around about potential future travel policies requiring travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Such policies are not new, only the disease these vaccines are designed to prevent is new.

As a child I have fond memories of attending travel clinics before our summer trips to the Philippines, where I was inoculated against typhoid and I believe hepatitis A before it was recommended for all American children. I was also given pills designed to prevent malaria. Occasionally, travelers to the Philippines are recommended to receive vaccination against Japanese encephalitis and rabies: diseases which can be prevalent on the islands but so rare in the States that it makes headlines when an American is sickened. This isn’t about control or compliance, this is about public health and prevention.

Some of y’all who have the misfortune of remembering the “old me” may remember that I had a vaccine skepticism phase in my late teens and early twenties, including during my pregnancy with my daughter. I was distrustful of the government and the pharmaceutical industry and I still am, in many respects. Ultimately what pulled me out of this mentality was being reminded of the travel clinics where I received these vaccines, and knowing that my daughter would never have the great fortune of visiting her rich ancestral homeland if I stood in her way of that.

I could definitely see a future in which it will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to travel, and that’s not a bad thing. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that international travel carries certain risks. In order for us to continue progressing and benefiting from international travel, rather than regressing into an isolationist world, we need to be able to mitigate those risks. Otherwise, we risk a resurgence of diseases that were nearly eradicated, or a failure to eradicate still-prevalent diseases.

Obviously, I am a proponent of international travel, as it was necessary for my conception and birth. Please don’t be scared that international travel could mean taking an unfamiliar vaccine! I’m living proof that it’s not very scary. If I could do it as a small child, you can do it too.

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