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Blogs | Health

Vaccinations for expat children

Any parent reserves the right to worry about their child’s health, but when you’re living abroad issues can often seem magnified.

Having a comprehensive plan for those all-important child vaccinations and development checks will afford you valuable peace of mind, and help you understand exactly what you can expect.

First steps

From the moment they’re born, children automatically qualify for a timetable of baby immunisations designed to protect them both now and in the future. However, it’s important to note that, depending where you are in the world, these routine vaccinations will vary.

The reason for this is straightforward. Protection is designed to reflect the challenges of the local environment or the ongoing risk of a particular disease – so if the odds are deemed small in a certain region, your child is unlikely to be offered a vaccine as standard.

Key examples of this include the Meningococcal B vaccine, which joined the UK immunisation schedule in July 2015, and the BCG for tuberculosis – which is administered as close to birth as possible in numerous countries, but is only offered to babies or children thought to be at an increased risk in the UK.

 

Leading immunisation examples

Dubai
Hong Kong
Thailand
BCG
At birth
At birth
At birth
Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus
Yes
Yes
Yes
Haemophilus Influenzae B (HIB)
Yes
No
No
Polio
Yes
Yes
Yes
Pneumococcal (PPV)
Yes
Yes
No
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Varicella (Chickenpox)
Yes
Yes
No
Hepatitis B
Yes (from birth)
Yes
Yes
Japanese encephalitis
No
No
Yes

 

Getting the right advice

So what do you do if a vaccine that you feel strongly about does not appear on your host country’s schedule? If you are going to be travelling to other countries or back to the UK on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to discuss your child’s proposed immunisation plan at an early stage with a medical professional to ensure that it offers the best protection – wherever they happen to be.

For example, in Thailand, additional immunisations for influenza, Pneumococcal, Rotavirus and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are all available for children – subject to discussion with your paediatrician.

Key questions to ask include:

  • Would you be able to add certain vaccines to your schedule?
  • Is a particular treatment recommended?
  • Is the vaccine available in your host country or would you need to travel back to the UK?
  • What costs would be involved?
  • Could your current paediatrician administer the injection?
  • How would a joint immunisation schedule work in terms of recommended timings and combinations?
  • Are there any possible complications associated with a particular vaccination?

 

Getting the timing right

Depending on your location, the number of vaccinations and associated booster shots, as well as recommended ages and intervals, may differ from what you’re used to or expecting – so make sure you understand exactly what’s on the timetable. Always seek advice from a qualified professional before undertaking any immunisation programme or resuming one already in progress.

 

Development checks

While numerous tests will be conducted at birth, subsequent checks for hip dysplasia, sight, hearing, speech and cognitive development will also need to be conducted at the appointed intervals. Timings for routine examinations may differ from those in the UK, so make a point of asking for clarification and whether any particular specialists are recommended.

 

Do you qualify?

In principle, if you are resident in a foreign country and are paying into the system your child should automatically qualify for a state-funded immunisation programme and development checks. However, the rules and access to facilities are country-specific, so you will need to verify your entitlement. If you decide to have vaccinations and checks conducted privately, keep a detailed, personal record of all examinations and injections.

 

Mum’s the word

Health visitors are an established part of post-natal support in the UK, but new mums are unlikely to find a similar structure in place abroad. Instead, a paediatrician will offer advice during routine baby checks.

However, parent and baby groups are typically well established in larger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong, with both medical professionals and fellow expats on hand to offer support.

Blogs | Health

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