As child vaccination programmes differ from one country to another, expat parents should be extra vigilant about their children’s vaccine updates and immunisation records.
Pediatrician Simon Wong kindly accepted to give us the lowdown on both public and private child immunisation options in Hong Kong.
Are any vaccines legally required in Hong Kong?
Vaccinations are not compulsory in Hong Kong. However many nurseries and schools do not take children who have not been fully vaccinated – vaccination requirements depend on each individual school/nursery. Also, some schools choose to vaccinate children on their premises.
What are the vaccines available in the public sector and how does the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme work?
- C.G. (against pulmonary tuberculosis)
- Hepatitis B
- Combined DTaP IPV + boosters (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis & Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine
- PCV 13 (13 valent conjugated pneumocccocal vaccine)
- MMR + boosters (Mumps, Measles and Rubella)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
These are provided free of charge for Eligible Persons. As for Non-eligible Persons, a fee of HK$365 is charged per visit.
B.C.G. and first dose of Hepatitis B are given to newborns at government hospitals prior to discharge while the first series of vaccines (< 18 months) are given at Mother and Child Health Centres. Remaining boosters are given at public schools by nurses from the Department of Health.
Do most private pediatricians/clinics follow Hong Kong’s Childhood Immunisation Programme?
Private pediatricians follow a more flexible and slightly different regime. The actual timing of the vaccinations is similar but we offer a wider choice of vaccines. We often use combined vaccines so that we can give fewer injections to the child. For example we often use “6 in 1” vaccines which incorporate Hepatitis B, DTaP IPV and HiB vaccines into one. This means that we are giving 1 injection instead of 3 separate injections, therefore speeding up the process and minimizing discomfort for the child.
Private practitioners also provide some “optional vaccines”, such as rotavirus, HiB, Hepatitis A, and conjugated meningococcal vaccines. Since some of these vaccines are standard in other countries, we can easily add them to the expat child’s vaccination schedule.
What vaccines are only available in private clinics?
Some vaccines are provided in the private sector only. These include influenza vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine, Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, meningococcal vaccine, Japanese encephalitis vaccine and combined vaccines which contain a combination of various vaccine components.
How do Hong Kong’s child immunisation practices differ from other countries?
Hong Kong’s child immunisation schedule is similar to other European/ Western vaccination schedules. B.C.G. and Hepatitis B are given earlier due to high local prevalence of the disease. Other vaccines such as Haemophilus influenzae Type B (HiB) and Meningococcal are usually not given due to the fact that the associated infections are less prevalent in Hong Kong.
Is there a strong anti-vaccination movement in Hong Kong?
Even though some parents have doubts about vaccinations, most parents are quite comfortable with the idea of vaccination. In fact, a lot of parents seek additional protection by getting the “optional” vaccines available in the private sector.
What are your 3 main arguments when facing parents who are reluctant about vaccinating their child?
- Modern vaccines are safe.
- Most negative rumors against vaccinations are unsubstantiated and do not have any credible or scientific proof to support their claims.
- Your child is much more likely to suffer from the actual disease as compared to getting any side effects from the vaccines themselves.