If you are expecting a baby in the UAE (or moving here with a small baby), you may wonder about the differences in the vaccination schedules. We’ve pointed out the major differences – and asked why there are certain exclusions and inclusions…
On the UAE vaccination schedule (but not on the UK schedule) …
The BCG vaccine protects against TB (tuberculosis); a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream into any organ in the body. If you (or your child) has a prominent raised scar in the middle of their upper arm, this is from the vaccine (remember lining up in school back in the UK to get your jab? We definitely do!)
Babies in the UK are only given the vaccination if they live in a high-risk area or have a parent or grandparent that was born in a country with a high rate of TB – and this means a very small proportion of the population get the BCG vaccine at birth. The UAE, however, is considered a high-risk country and babies will be given the vaccination at birth as a matter of course. This is usually carried out on day one or two of your baby’s life while you are still in the hospital and requires little aftercare, bar keeping the injection site clean.
In the UK, the Hep B vaccine isn’t routinely given – yet newborns in the UAE are given it as a matter of course. So what exactly does it prevent? The vaccine gives protection against the Hepatitus B virus, which is a major cause of serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. The disease can be contracted by coming into contact with infected bodily fluids or through contaminated food and drink – and whilst this isn’t considered a concern in the UK, the UAE is considered to be higher risk and so babies are vaccinated at birth. To be effective, the first dose needs to be followed up with second, third and fourth doses at 2, 4 and 6 months old.This will all be marked in your baby’s vaccination schedule.
Officially known as Varicella, this vaccine protects against chicken pox – and it is routinely given to children in Dubai after their first birthday, with a booster given before they turn six years old. One dose prevents 95% of moderate disease and 100% of severe disease – and the second dose makes it even more effective. However it is optional, so you can choose to opt out if you prefer.
In the UK, it is not given on the NHS at all (although it can be purchased privately) and parents have mixed opinions about whether it is necessary when chicken pox is usually mild. Either way, it is widely believed that being vaccinated or having a dose of the chicken pox is better than running the risk of contracting it as an adult, when the repercussions can be much worse (and that, we believe, is the rationale of those chicken pox parties our parents sent us to in our youth!)
On the UK vaccination schedule (but not on the UAE schedule)…
From September 2015, all babies born in the UK have routinely been given the Men B (meningococcal B) vaccine, which protects them against meningoccocal meningitis and septicaemia (the leading infectious cause of death for children under five in the UK). For those children that are older, the vaccination is now widely available to buy privately at GP surgeries and travel clinics, with two doses needed for the vaccine to be effective (given no less than two months apart).
There is some confusion amongst British Mums in Dubai about whether the vaccine is available here, but at the moment it is not licensed (healthcare professionals assure us that they will be offering it as soon as that licensing is passed). In the meantime, if you’re looking to get it done, your best bet is to get your children vaccinated privately on a trip back to the UK – booking via a GP surgery, travel clinic, or through Boots the Chemist. Just bear in mind that your child will need two doses at least two months apart, so this only works if you have a couple of trips back to Blighty planned soon (or are planning a long trip over summer). It also comes at a price (especially if you have more than one child), with each dose costing on average £125. If you decide to go ahead, it’s worth checking your insurance documents carefully, as you may be able to claim back if you have international coverage.
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