In the final months of 1998, my brother and I spent a lot of time at the vaccination clinic at Lund University Hospital in preparation for our first journey to Southeast Asia. A source of amusement at the clinic was the list of available vaccinations, in which the vaccination against rabies stood out by being the by far most expensive treatment available.
When we finally had gotten all the vaccinations the doctor thought we needed for the journey, we had spent so much time talking about the rabies vaccine, which the expensiveness of the treatment and the imagery of rabid dogs by now had made utterly irresistible to us, that we just had to get it no matter the cost. But the poor doctor talked us out of the idea, explaining that it would be a waste of money because the vaccine only increased the resistance to rabies but didn't provide any immunity and that the effect of it only would last a limited time and not for life, so unless we planned any encounters with rabid dogs in the foreseeable future the treatment would be useless. We went to Southeast Asia without having taken rabies vaccine, and to this day we haven't met any rabid dogs, but the memory of that exotic treatment still lingers.
Today I visited the Travel Clinic at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at Zürich University, the preeminent place to go in this city before travelling to any exotic locations, to talk about our route through Central Asia and what vaccinations I should take before and what medicines I should bring along. Normally, these days I've been travelling so much that I'm most often already vaccinated against whatever evil a new country has to offer, but for the six weeks through Central Asia I was in for a treat: The methodical Swiss doctor ended up writing a list of vaccinations so long that it filled all available space, including the margins, of the form, both with vaccines I should take again and vaccines I've never had before. And it included rabies!
Apparently there is a vaccine, Rabipur, that gives increased resistance to rabies, for life, and according to the Novartis web site it was introduced already in 1984. So either they were a bit behind and didn't have this thirteen years ago in Lund, or more likely the doctor there saw the chance to bend the truth a little to talk two young male students out of wasting the resources of the public health care on playing macho. I can't say I really blame him ...
But apart from this trip down memory lane, they today gave me shots against polio, hepatitis B and tick-borne encephalitis as well, together with a schedule of when and what they'll give me in the next few months. (There was apparently a lot of stuff that shouldn't be administered the same week as rabies ...) It seems I'll be a regular customer there.