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Paul and I are in the process of getting a series of vaccinations in preparation for our relocation to Hong Kong.

It never occurred to me that we would need shots. The information came from Dr. Andrea McCrady, the Dominion Carillonneur of Canada.

(Dr. Andrea McCrady, my friend and carillon teacher, was a medical doctor before becoming the full-time Dominion Carillonneur at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.)

Given that we are not scheduled to see our family doctor for a few weeks yet, I’m glad she told me because the process takes time. A call to our doctor’s office revealed that we would have to go to a travel clinic in any case for these shots, so I did a little research.

The Public Health unit here in Ottawa does not do these types of shots. However, there are several travel medicine clinics here and it’s easy to get in quickly. It’s not cheap though. You pay for the consultation, for each injection and for each vaccine. For the two of us, the cost will be about $1,700. Fortunately, our medical plan covers the vaccinations but anyone without a plan should be prepared for a significant cost. I could have saved a bit at a different clinic, but by the time I factored in parking and time, I figured it would all work out about the same.

The process starts with a consultation with a doctor in which you discuss where you are going, for how long, prior vaccinations and the general status of your health. Our travel clinic doctor confirmed everything Andrea had said: that for our journey we would need Hepatitis A (spread through food, water and person-to-person) and Hepatitis B (spread through tainted hospital equipment or person-to-person), Japanese Encephalitis (spread by mosquitoes through birds and pigs), and typhoid (spread through food, water and person-to-person). There’s a combined shot for the two forms of hepatitis called Twinrix so we chose that. Twinrix requires three shots a couple of weeks apart and then a booster in one year. The Japanese Encephalitis is two shots exactly 28 days apart (there’s only a day or two of flexibility on either side of the four-week window for that one) and a booster in one year. We only need one typhoid shot, which the doctor recommended we get closer to our departure.

She also suggested we consider getting rabies shots. Apparently, China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world after India. I think we’ll deal with that when we have more specific regional travel plans in place.

None of these shots are necessary for just a trip to Hong Kong. They are only recommended if you are likely to travel to Mainland China or elsewhere in that region. The doctor was quick to say that healthcare in Hong Kong is excellent (something we have heard repeatedly) and that these diseases are not endemic there. But given the length of time we will be in Hong Kong (three years, possibly more) and the likelihood that we will travel in that region, it is important to do.

So here we go … four more appointments to add to the schedule and sore arms too, but better safe than sorry.