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Travel Vaccinations and DC Travel Clinics

Vaccinations for Travel

Travel vaccinations and medications do not make for an exciting conversation topic, but they’re crucial to the trip and the planning process. I don’t know about everybody else’s experience, but finding a reliable DC travel clinic has been a frustrating one. When I first read about vaccinations on other travel blogs and the costly/tedious process I thought:

“Ppshish this will be a walk in the park”

We’ve both got great insurance, so we’ll go to our primary care physician, get all the necessary pricks and simply pay the $10 copay.

More like sinking deeper and deeper into quick sand is what it has been like.

As luck would have it travel vaccinations are not covered by medical insurance – setback number one.

Where to go from there? Where to even figure out what vaccines we need?

What Vaccinations Do I Need?

There isn’t really a perfect answer to this. It’s going to depend on what countries/cities you’re going to, what you’ve had as a child and what your tolerance for risk is. In few cases are vaccinations mandatory, so for the most part, it’s a trade off between how much you’re willing to spend and how risk averse you are.

Thanks to the internet there are millions of websites providing information on travel vaccines. It’s the type of thing that is updated frequently and can change depending on the season or if there are is a recent outbreak, for example. For the most up to date information I recommend checking out the CDC on each country you will be going to.

The main ones worth considering for extended travel are:

Name # of Shots Intervals Notes
Yellow Fever 1 1 shot every 10 years  some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination
Japanese Encephalitis 2 2 doses, second one given 28 days after the first (repeat after 3 years)
Meningitis 2 Children vaccinated (at 11 years old with booster between 16-18 years old) Booster dose recommend after 3-5 years for travelers to endemic zones
Hepatitis A 2 2nd dose given 6-12 months after first dose
Hepatitis B 3 3 doses, the second one given 28 days after the first and the third given 5 months after the second
Typhoid 1 booster given after 3 years Can be taken as an oral vaccine
Tetanus/Diphtheria (tdap) 1 1 booster every 10 years
Polio 4 Children vaccinated with 4 doses (at 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and booster at 4-6 years). As adult receive booster when traveling to polio-endemic region (one shot every 10 years) $35 shot fee each visit
MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) 2 Children vaccinated with 2 doses (at 12-15 months and 4-6 years)
Rabies 3 3 doses, the second one given  7 days after the first and the third given 21 days after the second

In many cases you may have had a few of these as a child, but will need a booster. For the others you might need a few months to get the full number of shots, so think ahead! Out of this list we were all set to go with Hep B and MMR. Only 7 to go  (we’re passing on the rabies vaccine)!

Finding A Travel Clinic

Since regular medical offices do not even provide travel vaccinations nor stock them you need to seek out a travel clinic. Using the CDC website I found a list of DC travel clinics.

After clicking through all the websites I realized that nobody provides pricing information online, yet seeing as how we are budget travelers and the shots all cost a fortune I went through the painful process of calling each and every one of them to get a quote (I should have kept track of how long I spent on hold altogether).

Below you’ll find a table of the travel clinics in the DC area that I called along with pricing information for the Japanese Encephalitis, Meningitis and Yellow Fever vaccines (luckily for us the rest of the vaccines we were able to get at Dave’s health clinic at work for free).

Name Address Phone Number Fee JE (per shot) Meningitis Yellow Fever Notes
GW University Travelers Clinic 2150 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Suite G-416 Washington DC 20037 202-741-3333 $50 $380 $120 $157
Georgetown University Hospital 3800 Reservoir Rd., NW Washington DC 20007 202-444-0086 $75-$90 $260 $125 $94 $35 shot fee each visit
Foxhall Immunizations 3301 New Mexico Ave NW Suit 340 Washington DC 202-362-4467 $40 $245 $126 $125 With doctor’s referral note can waive consultation fee
Washington Occupational Health Associates Inc. 1140 19th St NW Suite 700 Washington DC 20036 202-463-6698 $45 $240 $148 $115
Capital Center Travel and Tropical Medicine 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW #800 Washington DC 20036 202-450-5778 $40 $240 $175 $120 Initially told us JE was $120
The Washington Travel Clinic 1712 I St NW Suite 1007 Washington DC 20006 202-521-8120 $55 $265 $146 $135
Farragut Medical and Travel Care 815 Connecticut Ave NW Washington DC 20006 202-775-8500 $50 $285 $195 $160
APEX Travel Medicine 960 18th St NW Washington DC 20006 202-293-5001 $50 $275 $140 $110
Traveler’s Medical Service of Washington 2141 K St NW Suite 408 Washington DC 200037 202-466-8109 $35 $355 $208 $150

Is the JE Vaccination Necessary?

Doesn’t it just make you cry when you see how expensive the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is? Well multiply that by two, since it’s a set of two shots. When I first called the Travel Associates I almost jumped with joy upon hearing that the JE vaccine there was only $120.

Too good to be true right?

I thought so too, so I called again and got the same quote. Clearly the winner out of the group, the Travel Associates clinic is where we made an appointment to get the yellow fever, meningitis and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines. Upon seeing the nurse we discovered the JE vaccine is not $120, but instead $240 dollar per shot.

Seriously? 

The whole point of doing research beforehand is to use the information to make the best decision, which obviously is completely negated when you are provided the incorrect price not once but twice (by two different people might I add). To think we could have gone to Foxhall Internists and bypassed the travel consultation fee by bringing a note from the nurse at Dave’s work.

Aaah the frustrations.

Moving on – fine, $240 a shot, that’s still cheaper than the other clinics in the area, we’ll have to take it. We got the yellow fever vaccine and had to come back after we picked up the JE vaccine from the pharmacy when it came in. Well, at the pharmacy the JE vaccine had jumped up to $300 a shot. The JE vaccine alone just went from costing $480 for both of us to $1200 – a price increase of significantly more than just pocket change. At $1200 for the vaccine I had to go back and do more research. In terms of Japanese Encephalitis through the CDC website (among others) we’ve discovered:

Takeaway – low risk but very high consequences. In the end we decided not to get the JE vaccine. Considering that we will be traveling through SE Asia from November – March, mostly spending time in urban areas with limited time in rural areas we will instead get the JE vaccine in Thailand where it will be significantly cheaper ($40). To protect ourselves from mosquito bites we will generously be spraying ourselves with Mosquito Spray with 100% DEET and after Thailand we will have the vaccine. A bit of good news I suppose is that it turns out our insurance covers the Meningitis vaccine, so we will be able to get that at the Walgreen’s Take Care clinic – finally a break. After many phone calls to travel clinics and my health insurance company, this has certainly been a frustrating process, but hopefully we have made the right decisions.

What have other travelers decided in terms of Japanese Encephalitis?

Our final cost for the travel vaccinations was $160 per person ($120 for yellow fever and $40 for the consultation – though I suppose we could have delayed that vaccine until Thailand as well).

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