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Unvaccinated travellers risk invalidating their insurance

Holidaymakers who fail to get the measles jab may jeopardize their travel insurance say industry experts. 


As the measles outbreak continues to make headlines travellers are being urged to get vaccinated or face the consequences. 



Natalie Ball, director, says, “Unvaccinated travellers are at very high risk of measles exposure and transmission. Additionally, those who fail to vaccinate could be out of pocket for any treatment they require overseas.”


Travel insurers such as InsureandGoTID and World Nomads may reduce or invalidate claims arising from failure to vaccinate.


“The measles virus is extremely contagious, and complications can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and even death,” says Ball. “Unvaccinated travellers face all manner of health risks along with thousands of dollars in medical fees, not to mention lost travel expenses. ”


Measles outbreak prompts warnings


A worldwide resurgence of the measles virus has highlighted the importance of vaccination for Australian travellers. A reported 17,000 cases have been reported in the Philippines in 2018 while the United States measles outbreak has hit a 25-year high. 


Nearly 100 Aussies have already been diagnosed with measles in 2019 and nearly all cases have involved an Australian traveller or a foreign visitor infected overseas. 


According to health organisations, infected, non-vaccinated travellers are highly responsible for the current outbreak of measles in Australia. “Although vaccination rates are relatively high in Australia, it's imperative for those with travel plans to consult with their doctor to ensure that their immunisations are up to date,” says Ball.


While 93.5 % of Aussie children are currently vaccinated, the rates drop as low as 60% in some parts of New South Wales. Public health campaigns such as the ‘No Jab, No Play’ policy have targeted parents in a bid to boost immunisation rates. 


Does travel insurance cover epidemics?


Kate Smith, marketing manager of Zoom Travel Insurancesays that while most travel insurance policies would cover you for a bout of measles, the threat of an epidemic could affect your coverage.


“Travel insurance will travel generally cover you in the event that you contract measles before or during your trip, however, epidemics or pandemics are usually excluded from cover,” says Smith. “Once a travel warning is out there and ‘known’ it would be too late to get cover for that event.” 


Smith says that while an epidemic may rule out some aspects of your cover there are plenty of other reasons to consider travel insurance.


“In the event that a travel warning was released that affected your coverage it’s worth being mindful that travel insurance is still very useful for a whole range of reasons. For instance, you would still be entitled to claim on luggage, cancellation and medical expenses unrelated to the travel warning.” 


Tips to avoid catching measles overseas

- Vaccinate: All children and unvaccinated adults are advised to get the Measles vaccine (MMR) at least two weeks before travelling.  Children over 12 months of age and unvaccinated adults should have two doses of MMR, 28 days apart. Children over six months may be eligible for early vaccinations.


-Speak to your doctor: Check with your doctor if you suspect you may not be vaccinated. For instance, those born between 1966 and 1994 may be at risk due to changing immunisation schedules during this time.  Pregnant women who have not received the MMR should seek their doctor’s advice. 


-Prevent illness: Wash your hands regularly with soap and water when possible, and use hand sanitizer when on the go. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoid close contact with those who are unwell.

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Published: 1 May 2019

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