Vaccinations are an essential part of preventative healthcare. Not only do they lessen the risk of serious illness, but also protect us from the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. However, besides the annual flu shot, many people don’t know what vaccines are available and which ones to get.
In this article, we will guide you through the common vaccines you can get in Hong Kong to best protect you from certain illnesses.
Hong Kong immunisation schedule
The Hong Kong government1 provides a specific range of vaccinations against flu and pneumococcal infection to eligible groups of residents, sometimes at a discounted rate. Other more specialised vaccinations may need to be accessed at private clinics, as they are only available there.
Vaccinations for adults
Below is a list of common vaccines that an adult may find themselves needing, along with brief background information about the vaccine.
- Annual flu vaccination. This flu-prevention vaccine helps the body to develop antibodies to several strains of the flu virus. Ideally, you should get the flu shot every year to protect from the different strains of flu. The Northern hemisphere vaccine is typically manufactured in time to be available before the Winter flu season. It typically arrives in Hong Kong in late September or early October and can be given until Easter depending on the local prevelance. You should not get a flu shot if you have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)2 or if you previously had severe reactions to the flu vaccine.
- HPV vaccination. The HPV vaccine, also known as Gardasil 9, is a vaccine that protects the body against human papillomavirus (HPV)3 that can cause cervical cancer, genital warts and both throat and anal cancer among others. Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11–12 but the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. If you wait until they’re older, they may need three doses instead of two. HPV vaccination is also recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.5
- Tetanus Vaccination. There are different types of tetanus vaccines. According to the CDC, DTaP vaccines are given to young children, in combination with diphtheria, and pertussis and polio vaccines in their vaccination schedules. Tdap vaccines are recommended for preteens around 11-12 years old. Td or Tdap vaccine boosters are advised for adults every 10 years to maintain protection 13 .
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). Measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious consequences in severe cases. Hong Kong adults born between 1967 and 2002 who have not been immunised against measles are eligible for free MMR vaccines under the government’s vaccination programme. However, if you are severely ill or have had an allergy to a previous dose of MMR4, consult a doctor before getting the vaccine.
- The Hepatitis A vaccine provides long-term protection against Hepatitis A. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as a child, but you should also be vaccinated if you are at risk of getting the virus, such as having a partner with the virus or frequently travelling to countries where it’s common6. You shouldn’t get the vaccine though if you’re suffering from a severe illness or allergic to constituents of the vaccine.
- Hepatitis B vaccine, also known as Engerix B, protects against the hepatitis B virus. Again, the CDC recommends receiving this vaccine as a child, but you should also get it if you are at risk, such as having multiple sexual partners or living with someone with a chronic infection7. Don’t get the vaccine if you are suffering from a severe illness or have a history of hypersensitivity to yeast.
- Pneumococcal vaccination. This is a vaccine that prevents pneumococcal disease, as well as some cases of pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. There are two types of the vaccine (13 and 23 strains). The vaccines are given to children and are also recommended for those over 50 years or age or those who have high-risk conditions (such as immunocompromised states, diabetes, chronic heart/liver/lung or kidney disease). You will have to discuss with your doctor if you need to get one or both of these vaccines, depending on your age and medical history. 8
These are some common vaccinations for adults, but this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are also a number of other vaccines that are not mentioned here, such as tetanus, varicella and pertussis. Ideally, you should speak to your family doctor about your health concerns.
Outbound travel vaccinations in Hong Kong
Before you travel, it’s also advised that you get vaccinated against specific pathogens that could infect you when you are abroad to protect you and your family’s health. AT OT&P we recommend you to ask your doctor about the following:
- The MenACWY vaccine9 helps to protect against meningococcal infection, which causes the two major illnesses meningitis (brain inflammation) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). The infection is observed worldwide, but the area with highest-risk is in sub-Saharan Africa — so it’s highly recommended to receive the vaccination before travelling. This is also a vaccine that is given to children in their childhood to prevent against meningitis.
- Yellow fever vaccination, which is recommended for people travelling to some tropical areas of Africa and Latin America. The vaccination protects against yellow fever, a disease passed by mosquitoes and causes all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms like fever, chills, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea and more. In Hong Kong, is only available at the Department of Health’s Travel Health Service.
- Shingles Vaccine . Zostavax protects against shingles, a viral infection caused by the zoster virus (that also causes varicella). The FDA has approved for the use of the vaccine for people 50 years old and older to prevent shingles and post herpetic neuralgia10. This vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women or those with a weakened immune system. The other vaccine for Shingles, Shingrix is not available in Hong Kong at the moment, but we are hope to offer it to our patients soon.
- Rabies vaccination, is used to prevent rabies an acute infection of the central nervous system usually caused by a bite, scratch or licked over broken skin by an infected animal. When travelling, be sure to avoid contact with stray animals, as well as receive the rabies vaccine. High risk countries include most of central Asia and Africa.
- Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease that infects the brain. The areas most affected are rural and agricultural areas of Asia and the Western Pacific Region. As of yet, there is no specific treatment for the disease so when travelling take measures to protect against mosquito bites and ask your doctor about the Japanese encephalitis vaccination.
- There are currently 2 vaccinations that protect against Typhoid fever, a serious bacterial infection passed on through contaminated food and drinking water. One is a single intramuscular dose (typhim), while the other is a 4 dose oral vaccine (vivotif). The vaccination is recommended for individuals travelling to high-risk areas, including countries in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.
If you are unsure of which vaccines you need for your trip, discuss your travel plans with your family doctor for accurate recommendations.
Vaccinations in pregnancy
Pregnant women should get vaccinated to protect themselves and the baby. The vaccines also provide the baby with immunity during the first months of life12.
Common vaccinations specifically recommended for pregnant women are:
- Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which can be life-threatening especially for newborn babies. According to the CDC, it is recommended to be taken from 27th-36th weeks. To be fathers, grandparents and newborn caretakers also advised a booster.
- Flu, which affects pregnant women due to changes in heart, immune and lung function
- Hepatitis B, which can be spread to the baby during delivery
Pregnant women should consult a doctor for professional advice before getting any vaccinations.
How can OT&P help?
Vaccinations can play an immense role in optimal health, so it’s important to understand what vaccine you should get and when. If you are unsure, OT&P’s professionals can help you build a tailored vaccination plan that will cater to your health needs. Our general practice clinic offers an extensive range of vaccinations for adults, whether they are travelling or looking for preventative health services.
1. Chp.gov.hk. 2019. Centre For Health Protection, Department Of Health - Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) 2019/20. [online] Available at: <https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/18630.html> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
2. Healthline. 2019. Who Needs A Flu Shot?. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/flu-shot#who-shouldnt-get-it> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
3. Cervicalscreening.gov.hk. 2018. Cervical Screening Programme - Human Papillomavirus And Vaccine. [online] Available at: <https://www.cervicalscreening.gov.hk/english/hum/hum_ccv.html#1> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
4. Chp.gov.hk. 2020. Centre For Health Protection, Department Of Health - Free Measles Vaccination Mop-Up Programme - Non-Immune Adults. [online] Available at: <https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/101938.html> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
5. . Cdc.gov. 2019. Vaccine for HPV| CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine.html> [Accessed 13 May 2020].
6. Cdc.gov. 2019. Hepatitis A Information | Division Of Viral Hepatitis | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
7. Cdc.gov. 2020. Hepatitis B Information | Division Of Viral Hepatitis | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
8. CHP.gov.hk. 2019. Frequently asked questions on pneumococcal vacicne [online] Available at: < https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/100770.html#FAQ11 > [Accessed 14 May 2020].
10. Cdc.gov. 2020. What everyone should know about Zostavax. | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/zostavax/index.html> [Accessed 13 May 2020].
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Vaccines During And After Pregnancy. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/vacc-during-after.html> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
13. Cdc.gov. 2020. Tetanus vaccine. | CDC. [online] Available at: <. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/tetanus/index.html> [Accessed 13 May 2020].