Known for its stunning beaches, those traveling to Vanuatu look forward to an unparalleled snorkeling and diving experience in the island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. However, Vanuatu’s healthcare system leaves a lot to be desired. For this reason, it is important that you consider what your healthcare options are before arriving on the island that’s over 1,000 miles away from the coast of Australia. These are the key facts you need to keep in mind as you plan your trip to Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s healthcare system
Healthcare is a serious social issue in Vanuatu, as the distance between the islands and the relative poverty hinders the accessibility of quality healthcare. Vanuatu also suffers from a severe shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. The estimated number of doctors, nurses, and midwives in 2012 is 1.77 per 1,000 population. This human resource shortage is likely to persist as the number of healthcare workers graduating from the Vanuatu College for Nursing Education is exceeded by the projected number of retirees for the foreseeable future.
There are five public hospitals and one private hospital in Vanuatu; with 27 additional health centers located across all islands. These medical facilities are not sufficiently equipped to deal with complex health issues, and most serious medical conditions are sent overseas to Australia or New Zealand for treatment and care.
Despite Vanuatu’s increasing modernity, the country’s local healthcare resources may vary widely in quality depending on the area. Precautions relating to healthcare should be made before making a trip. The country has a very limited local private health insurance system, so arrangements should be made before travel.
Malaria is Vanuatu’s top health concern. Although cases of malaria infection have decreased dramatically in recent years thanks to improvements in healthcare accessibility, the risk of getting malaria infection in Vanuatu is still higher than in many other countries. For instance, there are still areas in Vanuatu that are considered ‘high-risk areas’ for malaria infection. For this reason, it is recommended that you take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent getting a malaria infection. Mosquito repellents are also highly recommended.
However, the most common diseases on the island are those that stem from the lifestyle of local residents, such as respiratory issues, diabetes, and HIV/AIDs, according to the WHO.
The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recommends the following vaccinations for any travelers going to Vanuatu:
- Measles - Infants (6 - 11 months old) are recommended 1 dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before travel. People 12 months old or older who have never gotten the MMR vaccine are recommended 2 doses of MMR vaccine, each dose being at least 28 days apart.
- Routine vaccines - Routine vaccines consist of the most up-to-date and common vaccines such as those for chickenpox, polio, and your yearly flu shot.
- Hepatitis A - While hepatitis A is relatively rare in Vanuatu, the vaccine is still recommended as hepatitis A infections can still occur through consuming contaminated food or water in Vanuatu.
- Typhoid - Typhoid infections can occur if you eat or drink contaminated food and water in Vanuatu.
Diseases are not the only reason for hospitalization in Vanuatu. Being an island country, Vanuatu is susceptible to natural challenges like tsunamis, earthquakes, and even volcanic eruptions. Before visiting the country, make sure you check all the relevant natural disaster forecasts and are aware of the seasonal risks involved.
Another health concern for travelers to the country involves risks related to snorkeling and scuba diving. To say safe, make sure you are hydrated and not intoxicated while in the ocean, always snorkel or dive with a buddy, and stay close to the shore or reef.
Health insurance in Vanuatu
From inadequate healthcare facilities to natural disasters, there are plenty of risk factors that may necessitate an emergency medical evacuation from Vanuatu. To make sure that the expensive bills of medical evacuation are being covered, all expatriates traveling to Vanuatu are highly advised to purchase an international health insurance policy which provides an emergency evacuation benefit, as the costs associated with repatriation and evacuation from the area can be considerable.
To navigate your way through the health insurance requirements in Vanuatu, you can talk to health insurance experts, such as Pacific Prime, to find out the best health insurance option for you. Our policies cover a wide range of medical services including dental, maternity, pre-existing conditions, family health insurance, group health insurance, and more.
For more information about Vanuatu health insurance, and locally compliant international health insurance plans that we can offer there, or to receive a free quote, please contact one of our expert advisers today.