Vaccines Not Included in the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme
Based on the local disease prevalence and the latest evidence, the Scientific Committee on Vaccine-preventable Diseases (SCVPD) under the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) has made recommendations on the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme. Children from birth to primary six should receive different vaccines to protect them from eleven infectious diseases, namely, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), pneumococcal infection, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella.
Besides the above vaccines, private doctors may provide other vaccines to protect children from certain infectious diseases. These vaccines include influenza vaccine, Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, meningococcal vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine, Japanese encephalitis vaccine and rotavirus vaccine. There are also combined vaccines which contain a combination of various vaccine components. For example, the "Five-in-One” combined vaccine contains diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine components; and the "Six-in-One" combined vaccine contains an additional component of hepatitis B vaccine. All these vaccines are generally safe and effective. They can be used for protecting individuals against specific infection. However, parents should seek advice from doctors before getting their children immunised.
Influenza (Flu) is a viral infection characterized by fever, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle ache. The most common route of infection is through the respiratory tract. It is usually a self-limiting disease with recovery in two to seven days. However, it can be a serious illness to the weak and frail, and may be complicated by bronchitis, pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), and even death in the most serious cases. Influenza can be caused by different types of viruses, and occurs most commonly around January to March and July to August in Hong Kong. Influenza vaccine is prepared according to the prevalence of strains in the community each year, as recommended by the World Health Organization. Besides, the SCVPD recommends certain high risk groups for influenza vaccination in Hong Kong each year. These target groups include pregnant ladies, children aged between 6 months and less than 6 years, persons aged 50 or above, persons with chronic illness and people with BMI 30 or above. Please visit the CHP website for more information: www.chp.gov.hk/en/sas6/101/110/106.html
Haemophilus influenzae type b Vaccine
Haemophilus influenzae type b infection is a disease caused by bacteria. It is transmitted through direct contact with nose and throat secretions of infected persons. Serious acute infection is more common in children under five years old, and can cause pneumonia and meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brains), and even death. Haemophilus influenzae type b infection has a relatively lower occurrence in Hong Kong compared with other western countries. Effective vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b infection is available. If parents wish to get their children immunised for individual protection, please consult doctors first.
Meningococcal infection is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It can be transmitted by direct contact through droplets of respiratory secretions from infected persons. The bacteria can cause septicaemia (a form of blood poisoning), meningitis, and even death. Most of the meningococcal infections reported locally in recent years were caused by serogroup B bacteria. Since the occurrence of meningococcal infections is uncommon in Hong Kong, and the currently available meningococcal vaccine does not confer protection against infections caused by serogroup B bacteria, its duration of protection is short and it is relatively ineffective in children aged under two, the meningococcal vaccine is not included in the local childhood immunisation programme. Except during disease outbreaks, children under 18 months of age should not receive this vaccine. Travellers to high risk areas may consult their doctors for meningococcal vaccination. Please visit the website of the Hong Kong Travel Health Service for more information: www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/vaccine_prophylaxis/meningo_vacc.html
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Hepatitis A is one form of viral infection of the liver cells caused by hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food and shellfish. Affected persons of Hepatitis A may have no symptoms. Those who have symptoms may have poor appetite, tiredness, nausea, loose stool and jaundice (yellow staining of skin and whites of the eyes). Persons after recovery usually have life long immunity and there is no chronic carrier state. The most effective method for preventing hepatitis A is the observation of food, personal and environmental hygiene. Children who frequently travel to areas with common occurrence of hepatitis A may consider receiving hepatitis A vaccination for personal protection. For details, please visit the website of the Hong Kong Travel Health Service: www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/vaccine_prophylaxis/hepatitis_a.html
Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine
Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus. The disease occurs mainly in Asia and the Western Pacific Region, but is rare in Hong Kong. Mild infections may occur without apparent symptoms other than fever with headache. More severe infection is marked by quick onset of headache, high fever, neck stiffness, impaired mental state, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions (especially in infants), paralysis and even death. To prevent contracting the disease, one should take measures to prevent mosquito bites. Since the occurrence of the disease in Hong Kong is low, vaccination for Japanese encephalitis is usually not recommended for members of the general public. The vaccine is only recommended for travellers who plan to stay one month or longer in high risk areas, particular in rural areas. Please visit the website of the Hong Kong Travel Health Service for more information: www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/vaccine_prophylaxis/jap_encephalitis.html
Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea among children worldwide. It is transmitted mainly by the faecal-oral route. Transmission can occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food and contact with contaminated surfaces. The disease is characterised by vomiting and watery diarrhea, often with fever and abdominal pain. It is a self-limited illness for healthy persons, but occasionally associated with severe dehydration in young children. Observation of good personal, food and environmental hygiene is an effective method for preventing rotavirus infection. Effective vaccines are now available to prevent severe rotavirus diseases. Parents should consult doctors before getting their children immunised.
Travel Health Service, Department of Health website:
Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health website:
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