IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal

The wing of an airplane over the ocean and an island.

In the news: Vaccines, bug spray, pharmacies, and brain drain

We’re trying something new: A monthly round up of fascinating articles in travel and global health. Every month, we’ll highlight issues of interest to travellers, initiatives in global health, tropical medicine research, scientific discoveries, and more.

Check our blog each month for the latest round up.

Four things we liked this month

1. Travel smart: Don’t leave travel vaccines to the last minute

Toronto Star

Planning a trip? There are important reasons not to leave vaccines to the last minute. Pharmacist Victor Wong explains:

A lot of people don’t realize that not only do some of these vaccines take a few weeks to be effective, but they might be part of a multi-series of vaccines. It usually takes a minimum of a week for the body to develop antibodies and start the immunity process.

We recommend booking an appointment with your health provider or travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before departure. This gives you time to get multiple doses of vaccines if necessary and build up immunity.

In the case of Yellow Fever vaccine, you must be vaccinated at least 10 days before arriving in a country that requires proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. Border authorities can deny you entry to the country if you do not have proof of vaccination.

There is currently a shortage of Yellow Fever vaccine. Some clinics no longer have the vaccine in stock. If Yellow Fever vaccination is required for your trip, contact a Yellow Fever centre as soon as possible to confirm that they have the vaccine and book an appointment. (Here is a list of clinics in Canada and clinics in the USA.)

The shortage is expected to continue until mid-2018.

2. Five types of insect repellent to skip

Consumer Reports

There are many insect repellent products on the market, but some do not work. The bottom line: Products with DEET or Picaridin are still the most effective. If you’re shopping around for insect repellent, Consumer Reports’ insect repellent ratings are a good place to start.

Repellent isn’t the only way to prevent mosquito bites. In addition to repellent, wear long sleeves, light-coloured clothing, avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active, and sleep under a mosquito bed net in areas with Malaria. Learn more about insect bite prevention here.

3. Where street vendors run pharmacies out of buckets

National Geographic

Access to medicine, taken for granted in developed countries, is a challenge in many places.

These portraits of medicine vendors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, highlight the complex connections between access to medicine, regulation of pharmaceutical products, and falsified and substandard medications. These vendors are not pharmacists and have no training in dispensing medication, but they are an important source for medicine in their communities – and they provide income for their families. Vendor Aristil Bonord says:

I chose this profession because times are hard here. I want my children to go to school. And everyone needs medicine.

If you need to buy medication while travelling, go to a reliable licensed pharmacist. Falsified and substandard medications are common around the world. Vendors who are not trained in pharmacy may not understand the side effects, contraindications, or interactions between medications. They also may not be able to verify that their product is genuine or that it has been stored properly. Visit Fight the Fakes to learn more about fake medicines.

4. His parents’ death gave him a mission: Stop the medical brain drain


Ugandan engineer Chris Ategeka is on a mission to stop the medical brain drain. His parents and his brother died when he was a child (of HIV/AIDs and Malaria, respectively) – deaths that could have been prevented with access to a stronger health system. When asked about the career opportunities for a doctor graduating from medical school in Africa, Ategeka says:

As soon as they graduate, someone is already at their doorstep to give them a job elsewhere. It’s easy to sell because the [local] pay is low or no pay, so they hop on a plane, hop on a bus. We lose a lot of people that way, and no one is tracking where the ones who graduated go.

Preventing medical brain drain is also the goal of our travel medicine scholarships. Since 2002, we have awarded scholarships to doctors and nurses from countries where travel medicine is an emerging specialty. Past scholars have come from China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, and Pakistan. After their training, our scholars return home to teach their colleagues and share best practices in travel and tropical medicine. They apply their new knowledge in their clinics, improving healthcare for travellers and local patients alike. (You can support the next generation of scholars with a donation to the IAMAT Scholarship Fund.)

Bonus: Malaria: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi get first vaccine


Exciting news! The world’s first Malaria vaccine will be introduced in a pilot program for children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi next year.

Photo by Tullia Marcolongo.

Article by Daphne Hendsbee.