A practical guide to vaccination in the Czech Republic
Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements in human history and the medical world. Out of all medical procedures, it has saved by far the most human lives.
Vaccination is not intended only for children. Only few child vaccines last for decades or even forever, and so to keep our immunity against circulating diseases on the same level, we need to carry on in adulthood, too.
The basic vaccination is against tetanus. It requires regular revaccination every 10-15 years depending on age (with 10-year intervals at the age 60+). Not many people are aware that the vaccine can also be combined with diphtheria and pertussis. One dose creates immunity for up to 10 years.
Viral hepatitis A also belongs among the most common vaccine-preventable diseases. It is easily transmissible from contaminated food, drinks or any surface frequently touched by other people (e.g. door handles, ATM machines, shopping trolleys or toys). That is why it presents an everyday risk in both developing and developed countries.
An infected person discharges hepatitis A virus before the disease is clinically recognizable, two weeks before the first symptoms show. That means the virus is spread even by people who don’t show any symptoms of jaundice yet. The virus can live for up to 7 weeks at various surfaces. What is more, all people in close contact with an infected person have to follow quarantine measures for 50 days.
Since vaccination is highly effective and long-lasting, all these complications are easily avoidable. One shot of hepatitis A vaccine provides reliable immunity, the second dose after 6-12 months extends immunity for decades or for life.
Viral hepatitis B, on the other hand, is transmitted through invasive medical procedures such as needles, surgery or dentist procedures, tattooing, acupuncture, piercing, blood, and body fluids, including sexual intercourse. The diagnosis is often delayed, which makes the therapy less successful.
Possible outcomes, however, include liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, so early preventive vaccination is rather important. Three doses usually provide reliable immunity that may last for life. Viral hepatitis B occurs in every country in the world, and so can endanger anyone, not only for travellers.
Meningococcal meningitis is one of the most lethal infectious diseases in the world. This infection, with the highest case-fatality rate, occurs in the Czech Republic, too. It is transmitted by the respiratory way and may threaten all age groups, although mainly children and young adults seem to get infected. Nowadays, vaccination can protect against all major types of meningococcus – A, B, C, Y, and W-135.
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease present in some parts of Europe and Asia. Its endemic areas spread from eastern France to the Far East and from Albania almost to Polar Circle in Finland. Ticks become active when the outside temperature exceeds 5 degrees Celsius. The Czech Republic has the highest number of cases in the entire EU. Infected ticks are present in all regions of the country. Every year they occur in higher altitude and closer to human dwellings. Anyone who spends time outdoors can be at risk of this insidious disease that has no specific treatment. Hundreds get infected each year in the Czech Republic, many of whom suffer long-term consequences. There even are annual fatal cases. Whether you play golf, ride a bike, go fishing or just walk your dog, encephalitis can drastically impair the quality of your life.
With health insurance, you are entitled to free regular vaccination against tetanus and also to contribution towards other vaccinations, such as viral hepatitis A+B, tick-borne encephalitis, whoping cough, meningococcal meningitis, pneumococcal pneumonia, influenza, travel-related vaccination, up to 1000 CZK per year.
For children, the health insurance fully covers mandatory vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, viral hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B), and poliomyelitis (all in one hexavaccine), as well as a trivalent vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). Optional but fully covered are pneumococcal vaccination and HPV vaccine for predefined age groups.
If you are not sure how to take the next step about your vaccination or further vaccination for your child, you can contact your general practitioner or visit a Centre of Vaccination and Travel Medicine such as Avenier from our Referral Programme. Specialized centres offer exact time of appointment, free telephone or internet on-line booking, infection-free waiting room and often also extended opening hours.
written by associate professor Rastislav Maďar, MD, PhD.
Maďar specialises in infectious diseases, infection control, hospital-acquired infections, vaccines, and travel & tropical medicine. He is the founder and President of the international NGO International Humanity, President of the Forum of Infectious Diseases, Travel and Tropical Medicine, Chief physician of the largest network of Travel Medicince and Vaccination Centers Avenier in the Czech Republic, Chairman of the Editorial board of the peer-reviewed medical journal – Vaccination and Travel Medicine, and President of the Coalition for the Promotion of Vaccination. He wrote over 450 publications and papers, his ideas have been quoted in more than 400 publications. He lectures in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, and Estonia.