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Is it safe to travel with a kid who isn’t vaccinated?

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Vaccinations are a touchy subject to talk about with other moms. Some moms are very passionate about their position on vaccinations, and I’ve had many friends who have gotten into a heated debate when talking about whether or not they should be vaccinating their children. The fact is that we should have healthy discussions about the subject, educate each other, and make the best decisions for our children.

While I am not anti-vaccinations, I do have a child who is not vaccinated. It isn’t something that I publicly talk about because I fear being shamed for it, but it isn’t by my personal choice. My two older children have been fully vaccinated, and are healthy growing teenagers, but vaccinations pose a life-threat to my youngest son who has neutropenia.

Weeks after my son was born, he developed neutropenia. He now lives a normal and healthy life, but still has the autoimmune disease, and cannot get many of the necessary vaccines he needs to protect him from life-threatening diseases. What is my biggest fear? Traveling!

But, I love to travel. My biggest goal as a parent is to show the world to my children. I want to travel to new places with them and expose them to different cultures, but with that comes some risks. Last year, we traveled out of the country a lot. We were in Jamaica and Mexico more times than I can count on one hand. I am not the kind of traveler that sits at a resort. Instead, I am exploring the Jamaican jungles with my kids, rappelling off waterfalls and floating on rafts down rivers.

While in an appointment with my pediatrician, she had a serious talk with me about some of the risks and complications my son could have if he were to be exposed to certain diseases while traveling. Once she made me aware, I started doing some research and talked with Dr. Daisy Dodd who specializes in pediatric infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente more about traveling with a child who isn’t vaccinated.

When talking with Dr. Daisy Dodd, I learned that Kaiser Permanente has its own travel clinic. Parents can go to the clinic, and the nurses can advise exactly what vaccinations are recommended or needed for the area in which they are traveling. What the doctors at Kaiser Permanente recommend is that children have all their regular vaccines before traveling, and depending on where they are traveling, they may need additional vaccines. Certain countries require you to have specific vaccines before coming into their country, and sometimes you won’t need a specific vaccine to visit a country, but instead, you need it to get back into the States.

When should you go to the clinic? Dr. Dodd recommends going to the clinic immediately after making your travel plans. Ideally, you’ll want to go six months before traveling. There are some vaccines like the Hepatitis A vaccine that you need two shots of, separated by a period of six months, to be fully protected. Another great feature that Dr. Dodd advised me of was that patients of Kaiser Permanente could have a phone visit, which is a lifesaver for busy parents. When making travel plans, families can call the clinic, and the nurses can advise exactly what vaccines they would need for traveling in those specific countries.

What about if you are pregnant? Dr. Dodd advised that it depends on your trimester. She said, “You’ll want to check with your obstetrician, and with the Zika virus, you’ll want to avoid certain countries. If you’re going to New York or Hawaii, it is not a big concern, but if you want to go to South America or the Amazon – that is a big deal.”

When it comes to children like my son, Dr. Dodd recommended doing your homework before traveling. She said, “They can travel. If you need to travel to a place where there is the possibility of catching a disease, it is best to stay in the city. You shouldn’t escape outside the city and into the jungle because most of the people living outside of the city in countries like Vietnam are not immunized, and your child would be at risk of catching a dangerous disease that could lead to death.”

Vaccines play a major role in the health of our children, and the doctors at Kaiser Permanente are the best in the industry and are ready to help parents with making the best decisions for their children when it comes to immunizations. The vaccination travel clinic that Kaiser Permanente offers is just another reason why they are the best option for healthcare in the United States. Learn more about Kaiser Permanente online.

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