Nicaragua Mission Trip – Travel Vaccines

As many of you already know I am planning on traveling to Leon, Nicaragua this August for a medical mission trip. While there are many things I have been doing to prepare both physically, mentally, spiritually, and medically… what I want to discuss tonight is travel vaccinations.

On the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, there is a handy little travel guide to whatever country you are traveling to (see image below). When I looked up Nicaragua there were several recommended vaccines and other medical tips… one visit to the travel clinic and $500 later I have received a vaccine for Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertusis, and I am currently taking an oral Typhus vaccine. I start my chemoprophylaxis for Malaria on Saturday… there is something to look forward to. :-/

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, but Emma getting vaccines is such an un-Naturopathic thing to do! To that I would say on the contrary… MANY Naturopathic physicians not only believe that vaccines do work, we practice/prescribe/stick to the same vaccination schedule that is recommended to the public by the CDC. Now do all Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) follow this same thought process, absolutely not! In fact some are probably offended right now, but I do (with a small caveat) and I will briefly explain using some principles of Naturopathic Medicine why, without getting into a heavy discussion on Herd Immunity and/or Immunology.

1. First Do No Harm

One of the oldest tenants of all medical practice is to do no harm. We are very lucky to live in a society not plagued with horrible debilitating diseases such as Polio or even Measles. To jeopardize my patients’ and the communities health by not vaccinating due to personal convictions or personal choice, would be against my duties as a physician.

  • That being said… As a Naturopathic physician I completely understand and respect patient’s choice and their decision to NOT vaccinate. My patient’s have a right to their own personal choice and I will work with them to come up with a vaccination schedule that works both for their wishes and my own duties as a physician or help them find another doctor that can do so. 

2. Prevention

Another principle of Naturopathic medicine is to prevent illness if at all possible, both acute and chronic. Vaccines do this! Let’s use technology we already have to continue to strive for better health. I would rather help my patient’s improve their overall health, decrease risk and symptoms and progression of chronic disease, and become the healthiest versions of themselves than treating a disease that already has a cure.

3. Doctor as Teacher

One place where I differ directly from Allopathic medicine is on the delivery and discussion regarding vaccines with my patient’s. I want to help educate my patient’s on the pros and cons of all vaccines (and medicines, supplements, etc. for that matter) that they are subjecting their body to so they can make an informed and comfortable decision that is best for them. Doctors and patients are a team!

virus cartoon

Thyphoid cartoon

Those are my raw thoughts that I was contemplating while taking my live capsule of Thyphoid today. Science is great, we should use it in our favor, as long as it is safe and in our best interest.

If you are interested in these topics or others… stay tuned. More pre-mission trip info to come


My name is Emma Petshow and I am a 4th year naturopathic medical student at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. For more about myself, check out my bio. This blog is intended for information about preventive health and lifestyle improvement. The information contained on this blog is not to be used as medical advice. For specific medical advice you should consult your physician.


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