Vaccines for China Interns and Mandarin Program Participants
Asian countries have a bad reputation when it comes to health and safety, especially for westerners. I can’t tell you how many public health service commercials I have seen about the dangers of vacationing in Asia without extra vaccinations. While it is true that China is still a second world country by definition, just by interning (working, in other words) in a first or second tier city will not likely get you sick.
Where will you be staying?
As mentioned, living and interning in a first-tier city, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen is not high-risk if you stay within the city borders. Your biggest concern will probably be fake alcohol, fake meat, and clean water.
Where else will you travel?
If you plan on visiting rural China (e.g. Yunnan’s ethnic minority villages), or even surrounding Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia; then, do you may want to consult a doctor about getting extra vaccinations.
What will you be doing?
If you’re an outdoorsy person who enjoys exploring off-the-beaten-paths in the form of hiking, camping, or other outdoor sports; then, perhaps you should consider getting vaccinated for extra protection.
Are you up-to-date with your routine vaccinations?
You should know what your routine vaccinations are (they differ by country) and whether you’re protected before you leave. Remember, vaccinations should be done 4-6 weeks prior to your trip—you don’t want to be on the way back when they finally kick in!
Best Vaccines for Various Situation
So, which vaccinations do I really need?
If you’re the average intern…
Most doctors would recommend that all travelers to China would get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid, both of which you can get from contaminated water or food (sometimes the water they use to make your food is dirty).
If you’re a partyer and worry about unsafe sex, tattoo needles, or just getting in an accident and ending up in a less-than-hygienic clinic, get vaccinated for Hepatitis B as well.
If you’re an adventurous traveler…
For the brave adventurers, enquire with your health practitioner on the following vaccinations:
Malaria (oral pills)
Vaccinate, but don’t count on it!
If you clicked on our links for the World Health Organization fact sheets on each disease that you could get, you’ll note that the side-effects are unpleasant at best, and deadly at worst. Do your homework, consult a physician, and remember the following:
- Pack bug spray, a mosquito net if you’re adventurous, and long-sleeves and pants even if you’re going to a tropical area in the heat of summer. You’ll thank us later.
- Don’t eat questionably prepared food unless that was the purpose of your trip, or you simply have no other options. It’s very easy to get food poisoning, salmonella, e-coli virus, or just your average traveler’s diarrhea while in China.
- Having said that, do pack medicine, such as fever reducers, pain killers, stomach medicine, and antibiotics, if you can. Buying medicine in China is not difficult, but finding the Chinese equivalent of what you’re looking for might be.
- Actually, you have to pack pain killers. Lots of them. You’ll need them when you discover fake alcohol.
- You’ve probably read that most toilets in China are squatters, which is a good thing when you’re avoiding germs and transferable STDs, but when you do encounter a seated toilet, do not sit. If you must sit, at least use toilet seat protectors.
- Don’t touch random animals (risk of rabies among other diseases) as even domesticated pets are not all vaccinated in China.
- Don’t drink water unless you can see the source. Buy bottled water.