If you’re planning to travel anywhere outside of Portugal where you might need vaccines, don’t assume you can just pop to your local health centre and get your GP to sort you out. They won’t. They will simply refer you to your district’s International Health Centre for a consultation, which cost 7.50€ at the time of writing.
If you happen to live in the Coimbra district, it’s also possible to get an appointment at the university hospital (Hospital Universitário do Coimbra) to see a specialist doctor (mornings only, tel: 239400488, email: email@example.com).
Be aware, though, that the consultation is only to get advice and any prescriptions you might need. To get the actual shots, you need to traipse all the way to the other side of the city, navigating a bewildering set of road works and one way systems and head up the hill to the Santa Clara health centre.
My advice – book your consultation at Santa Clara Health Centre, as early in the morning as you can manage, so that you can get the vaccines done same day, same place. Hopefully.
Whatever you do, don’t leave it until the last-minute. The first available consultation I could get was two weeks from the date I telephoned. This meant that one of the recommended vaccines, which needs to be administered in two doses, 28 days apart, was not an option for me as my appointment only three weeks away from my departure date.
Be patient. I took me five attempts to get anyone to answer the phone. I’ve given up on expecting replies to emails but if you’ve got bags of time to spare, you could try sending one.
Take lots of cash with you, too. The health centre hasn’t got multibanco facilities and typhoid and meningitis jabs cost 20€ each.
Be prepared to go and buy your own medicines from a pharmacy to be injected at the health centre. The doctor will give you a prescription for any vaccines that they suspect the health centre may not have. Why a pharmacy would stock a vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis when the dedicated International Health Centre doesn’t is beyond my comprehension. Having said that, I can’t vouch for the availability of this medicine at the pharmacies either because at 80€ a pop, I decided I’d take my chances and didn’t get the prescription filled.
You’ll need to take your ID, NIF number, Portuguese medical card and Travel Health card with details of any previous vaccinations. And a book for while you’re waiting.
To help you decide whether or not you’re going to need vaccines for your trip, you could consult the NHS website, Fit For Travel, which is what the doctor was referring to during my consultation. You’ll still need to make an appointment for a consultation with your International Health Centre (uma consulta do viagante) but at least you’ll get an idea of how many jabs you’ll have to pay for.