It is that time in the year where everyone starts to travel for the June holidays and for summer vacations. Depending on where you’ll be visiting, doctors may recommend that you get vaccinated against certain diseases endemic in specific parts of the world.
As Singaporeans, we always want things to get cheaper, better and faster. There are many vaccination options that travellers can opt for, whether it is heading to polyclinics, public hospitals or private clinics.
In general, public healthcare providers are usually more affordable than private ones, but there may be exceptions and the difference may not be as significant as you think.
Here is your guide on the various options available, so you can make the most informed decision before travelling abroad and enjoying peace of mind.
Choice Of Destination
Given that different regions are endemic to different types of diseases, the travel vaccines that you should go for depend on which region of the world you’re headed. According to the Singapore General Hospital, these are the vaccines you should get, based on your travel region:
China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia: Routine vaccinations, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, Anti-malarial medications.
South America: Routine vaccinations, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, Anti-malarial medications.
Africa: Routine vaccinations, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Rabies, Typhoid, Anti-malarial medications.
Saudi Arabia: Routine vaccinations, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Influenza, Meningococcal, Rabies, Anti-malarial medications
The travel vaccines we chose to cover in this analysis include Influenza, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, Rabies and Typhoid, as these vaccines are not included in the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS).
Can I Use Medisave?
Singaporeans can use up to $400 in their Medisave account yearly, under the Medisave400 scheme, for 7 types of vaccines covered by the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS).
However, as the NAIS overlaps significantly with the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, the vaccines covered under the Medisave400 may not be applicable if you received these vaccines as a child in Singapore, including against Hepatitis B, measles and other diseases.
Unfortunately, most travel vaccines cannot be paid for with Medisave. If your insurance provider does not cover it, this means having to fork out cash. One exception is the influenza vaccine (or flu shot) if you are assessed to be of higher risk. This automatically includes anyone aged 65 and older, pregnant women, or those with certain chronic medical conditions.
Why Should I Bother Getting Vaccinated?
When travelling, if you do get infected by a disease which would otherwise been prevented by a vaccine, there could be devastating consequences particularly if you were trapped in a rural area where medical facilities are inadequate.
Even for developed countries like the United States, a simple visit to a private clinic for flu can go for US$100 to US$200 for uninsured foreigners, which is way more than a $30 flu shot in the first place. Your sickness could also be a wet blanket for those who accompanied you, who are forced to sacrifice their time to take care of you.
Public hospitals will typically refer you to their travel clinic to get your travel vaccinations. You are advised to call beforehand. The price listed below are for one dose, but to some of them we spoke to advised that Hepatitis A requires 2 separate doses, while Rabies requires 3 separate doses.
However, public hospitals will refer you to their Travel Clinics, which are typically open only during normal office hours, which means you could pop by during your lunch break if you work nearby.
Generally, Tan Tock Seng Hospital is the most affordable option amongst the healthcare providers we called up, however do take note that these prices did not include consultation charges.
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital 6555 8000
Tan Tock Seng Hospital 6357 2222
Singapore General Hospital 6326 6723
(Prices exclude consultation.)
Influenza: $26.05 to $42
Typhoid: $25 to $45
Yellow Fever: $174.40 to $198
Hepatitis A (may require additional blood test): $43 to $86
Rabies: $150 to $168
In general, polyclinics do not carry as wide a range of travel vaccines. However, as they are typically situated closer to residential neighbourhoods, they may be a convenient option. Do take note that polyclinics typically close registration much earlier than normal office hours, and that they have a specified lunch break in between.
Consultation fees may apply, depending on the type of vaccine. The prices quoted did not differ significantly between the polyclinic chains we contacted.
Singhealth Polyclinics 6643 6969
(Prices exclude consultation.)
Influenza: $32 to $33.90
Hepatitis A: $77.20 to $78
Typhoid: $26.50 to $27
Private clinics are usually more conveniently situated, either at high-traffic locations or near your house. They are especially helpful if you can’t find time during normal office hours to head to public hospitals or polyclinics.
For Raffles Medical, there is even a 24-hour clinic at Changi Airport Terminal 3 B2 if you really need to get your flu shot right before you travel. We consulted four healthcare providers who have amongst the largest private clinic networks around the island.
However, smaller clinics typically do not carry uncommon vaccines including Yellow Fever and Rabies. (We were even asked what they were). Do remember to call and enquire before heading down to avoid a wasted trip.
Raffles Medical 6311 2122
Parkway Shenton (Woodlands) 6363 9415
My Family Clinic (Punggol) 6697 7700
(Prices exclude consultation.)
Influenza: $30 to $85
Hepatitis A (may require blood test): $40.05 to $115
Yellow Fever: $205
Stretching Your Vaccination Dollar
If you do some comparisons before travelling, you’ll be able to get your vaccines for cheaper, usually through public channels. But if you are hard-pressed for time or value the convenience of timing and location, then going to a private clinic may be worth the additional money.
No matter what you choose, always enquire about any additional costs beforehand so that you don’t get a shock when you’re handed the final bill.
While there is an upfront cost associated with paying for a travel vaccinations, the protection it provides does last even after you return from your trip, especially for diseases native to Singapore like influenza.