When it comes to immunisation of newborns, The Hong Kong government schedule recommends giving both hepatitis B (Hep B) and bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccines at birth. Some parents have a preference to delay this, in which case the Hep B shot is given at 1, 2 and 6 months as part of a combined vaccine with DTaP and HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type B).
Whether you are currently expecting, or have just welcomed a baby into the world – this blog explains the most common vaccinations for newborns in Hong Kong. If you are interested in learning more about what vaccinations are recommended for your child as they grow up, read our comprehensive guide to child immunisation in Hong Kong.
What is a 5-in-1 vaccine?
The 5-in-1 vaccine, the DTaP/IPV/HiB vaccine, is a single injection that protects against five serious childhood diseases. It is only available in private clinics in Hong Kong. In the public healthcare system, this vaccine is a 4-in-1 (without the HiB), as there are not many outbreaks of HiB in Hong Kong, although other countries do continue to vaccinate against this disease.
Which illnesses does the 5-in-1 cover?
The vaccine protects against the most common childhood diseases, namely diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type B.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat. Less commonly, it can also affect the skin. The bacteria spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets of their saliva enter another person’s mouth or nose. Diphtheria can lead to potentially life-threatening complications, such as breathing difficulties and problems with the heart and nervous system.
Tetanus is a serious but rare infection caused by bacteria. It usually occurs when a flesh wound becomes contaminated. The symptoms include stiffness in jaw muscles, which is usually the first symptom, also known as lockjaw. Muscle spasms and stiffness then spread from the jaw into the neck and limbs. Other symptoms include high temperature (fever), sweating, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), and high blood pressure (hypertension). Muscle spasms in the neck can make swallowing difficult (dysphagia). In the most serious cases, severe breathing difficulties can develop. This may lead to suffocation and death.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping cough (pertussis), Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. The condition usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough that progresses to intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive ‘whooping’ noise, which is how the condition gets its name. Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing. The coughing can last for around three months. Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which can be passed from person to person through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing.
In the past, polio was very common, causing paralysis and death. Since a polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, the number of polio cases has dramatically reduced. There are now only a few countries in which the condition remains a serious problem and Hong Kong is not one of them, but the vaccination is still recommended in the Hong Kong child immunisation schedule.1
Haemophilus Influenzae Type B
HiB is a bacterial infection that can cause a number of serious illnesses, especially in young children. Many children who get HiB infections become very ill and need hospital care. HiB can cause any of the following infections: meningitis (lining of the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (lungs), pericarditis (the lining surrounding the heart), epiglottitis (epiglottis – a flap that covers the entrance to your windpipe), septic arthritis (joints) and cellulitis (skin and underlying tissues). Some of these infections can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.
The 5-in-1 vaccine is very safe but some babies do experience side effects. If you’re concerned about the safety or effectiveness of the vaccines, please raise these with your family doctor.
Why should you consider a 5-in-1 vaccine for your child?
The HiB vaccine is not available in the public health system. If you would like your child to receive it, you must see a private doctor. The HiB vaccine is usually given at 2, 4, and 6 months. It may be given as part of a 5-in-1 vaccine, which also includes the DTaP and Polio vaccines. Many parents choose to have a 5-in-1 vaccine instead of having the DTaP and Polio vaccines in a government clinic and then a HiB vaccine in private. Although the 5-in-1 vaccine is more expensive, it means one less injection for your child and one less visit to a government clinic. You may also consider the 6-in-1 vaccine, which includes Hep B, in addition to the DTaP, Polio, and HiB vaccines.
Vaccination schedule help at OT&P
Our clinic provides professional help from experienced midwives, obstetricians, and paediatricians that can guide you through an optimal vaccination plan, tailored to your little one’s individual needs and health conditions. Contact us to get in touch or book an appointment here.
- Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health - Poliomyelitis. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/healthtopics/content/24/37.html