Vaccination for Children in China

Vaccination for Children in China

Life as an expat can be exciting but when it comes to healthcare, especially when it involves our children, we have our concerns. Like many expats in China, apart from the questions about international health insurance, air pollution, water quality and food safety, Melanie wonders if her baby should be vaccinated in or out of China.

In 2010, 4 children died and an additional 70 became ill due to improperly stored vaccines in China. The provincial government insisted that the vaccines were safe but admitted that the manufacturer of the vaccines and the provincial Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had violated the regulations. In 2011, the World Health Organization announced that the local vaccinations now meet international standards. Despite that, concerns over local vaccinations still exist.

Where to vaccinate? What choices do I have? Which schedule do I follow? How much does it cost?

Which Schedule to Follow?

If your stay in China is only for several years, it may be better to follow the vaccination schedule of your home country. However, if your stay in China is long term, it may be advisable to follow the local schedule.

Vaccination in Europe and USA

In Europe and the United States, your child will normally receive the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis B, prevention against an infectious inflammatory illness of the liver
  • DTaP, a combination vaccine that protects against three bacterial illnesses: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), prevention against the inflammation of the brain or the lung
  • Polio, prevention against a disease that may lead to paralysis
  • Pneumococcal disease, the most common cause of bacterial inflammation of the brain
  • MMR, this is a combination vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella

Vaccinations for rotavirus (characterized by heavy diarrhea) and varicella (chicken pox) are optional.

In addition, in the US, a child will be vaccinated for hepatitis A (inflammation of the liver) and in Europe for Meningococcal meningitis (inflammation of the brain).

Recommended Vaccination in China

Additional vaccinations for China and also recommended for traveling in other Asian countries are:

  • Rabies (a lethal disease often transmitted by non-domesticated animals),
  • Japanese encephalitis (caused by mosquito bites),
  • BCG (tuberculosis)
  • Typhoid fever (also known as abdominal typhus).

Options for Vaccinations in China

Types of vaccination

Imported vaccines Pneumococcal disease, rabies
Joint venture vaccines that are produced outside of China but packaged in China Hepatitis B, pentaxim (5 in 1 for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib),
Local vaccines Japanese encephalitis, varicella, MMR, hepatitis A, DTaP, BCG

The Rotavirus vaccine and Typhoid vaccine are currently not available in China. (as at June 2013)

China imposes a strict regulation on the import of vaccines and at present, a lot of imported vaccines are scarce because they cannot be imported. Having said that, regulations are constantly changing so it is better to call your doctor in advance to enquire which vaccines are available.

Doctor's Advice on Vaccination in China

"People should very well document the vaccinations that they and their children receive. In addition, if you do not trust the local vaccinations, get them out of China as import regulations are changing all the time", says Dr. Noor Seebregts, Family Medicine Physician at Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics (SHU). Mothers planning for a baby should also ensure that all their vaccinations are curremt during their prenatal check-ups.

What did other expat mothers like Melanie do?

"As we know that we are only in China for another year after the birth of our son, we decided to follow the French schedule. He received all his vaccinations in either France or Singapore because he just happened to be there during the months of his vaccination. If we were in China, I would have done it at an international hospital as I think that would have been the safest choice, plus it is covered by my insurance," Melanie tells Expatmedicare.

"Our daughter was 4 months old when we moved to Shanghai and she was vaccinated with joint venture vaccines. We were told by a pharmaceutical representative in the US that the joint venture vaccines in Shanghai are the same as in Chicago. We have not taken any other vaccines here such as rabies, typhoid fever and so on. We were told that it was not necessary by our pediatrician in the US," says Elizabeth.

For Malaysian mother Mary Chan, they have been in China for 8 years before the arrival of their daughter, Elysee. "I delivered my baby at First Maternity. Although the facility and service level is not comparable to what we have back home, it is acceptable. We don't have any expat health insurance in China, but we chose to pay the price of vaccination at international hospitals simply because we don't trust the local hospitals", says Mrs. Chan.


Health Insurance in China and Vaccinations

Local vaccinations are cheaper than imported vaccinations and vaccinations in your home country will be cheaper than the imported vaccines in China. You need to make sure that your individual or group medical insurance will cover these costs. If you choose to have your child vaccinated for diseases that are not in the regular vaccination schedule as your home country, make sure that your health insurance will pay for these extra vaccinations such as BCG, rabies and Japanese Encephalitis.

Cost of vaccination in different health centers in Shanghai (as at June 2013)

Vaccine Health Center

5 in 1 Polio Pneumo-coccal MMR Consultation/shot
Shanghai United Family Hospital Im-1200 Im-590 Im-1600 Lo-free 1200/100
Raffles Medical Center Im-1180 Im-350 Im-1100 Lo-150 800/300
Global Health Clinic Puxi Im-628 Im-198 Im-860 Lo-free 1300/200
American Sino Im-1276 Im-586
Im-1000 Lo-free 600/100
Parkway Health Im-628 Im-198 Im-860 Lo-free 1300/220

Im. Imported, Lo. Local