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Young Parents
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Who calls the shots?
by Loo Pei Fen

Our experts:

  • Dr Tan Siew Pin is a paediatrician at Olive Tree Baby and Kids Clinic.
  • Dr Leslie Tay is resident family doctor at Karri Family Clinic.

Although it happened four years ago, Elaine Tong remembers her two daughters’ experience with rotavirus all too well.

Like Elaine, you probably followed the national immunisation schedule diligently when your child was a baby.

But maybe you got too busy to follow up on the booster shots, or wondered if an optional vaccine was even useful.

YP asked a paediatrician and a general practitioner the vaccination questions you were afraid to ask.

Q: My son missed a scheduled shot six months ago. Is it still effective if he takes it now, or even one year down the line?

Dr Tan Siew Pin: This will depend on which shot he’s missed, so check with your child’s doctor. For example, the second shot for Hepatitis A should be given between six and 12 months after the first shot. If the interval has been more than two years, you will need to restart the schedule from the first shot again.

Q: I’ve switched paediatricians. Can I change brands for my child’s booster shots?

Dr Tan: As long as it covers the virus or bacteria that your child needs a booster for, it’s fine to switch doctors.

Q: Does the six-in-one jab mean only one jab, once?

Dr Leslie Tay: No. You will need three six-inone jabs over the first six months of the baby’s life.

The free vaccine offered at polyclinics is the three-in-one jab, which covers diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus; an oral polio vaccine is also given to the baby.

For more comprehensive coverage, parents can choose the five-in-one jab, which covers all these diseases plus haemophilus influenzae.
This is the most common cause of ear, eye and sinus infections, as well as pneumonia in infants and children. The six-in-one jab has an additional hepatitis B added to the mix.

Q: Why are prices so different for the same vaccinations between polyclinics and GPs?

Dr Tay: I would say that the main difference is the level of service provided. At our clinic, I perform all vaccinations. At a polyclinic, the jabs are administered by nurses. The waiting time may also be longer at polyclinics. These are all factors to consider when it comes to the cost.

It may also surprise you that some of the vaccines administered at our clinic, like pneumococcal, are cheaper than at a polyclinic.

I earn less because I want to make it more affordable for parents to give this jab to babies now rather than wait till they are two years old to save on a few jabs. I personally know of an incident of a two year- old boy who died from this; it really pains me to see babies die from a preventable disease.

Q: Back in 1998, a British study claimed that the measlesmumps- rubella (MMR) shot led to cases of autism. Health authorities say it’s okay but should I delay this shot just in case?

Dr Tay: Medical experts have agreed that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In Singapore, the Ministry of Health is still recommending that this vaccine be given in the second year of a child’s life.

Q: My niece had chicken pox recently. My baby had been playing with her but didn’t catch it. Is he immune to it now?

Dr Tan: We can’t assume he has immunity against chicken pox unless he takes a blood test. So it’s advisable to have him vaccinated – he can do this when he turns 14 months old. One vaccine will do, followed by a booster when he turns six years old.

Q: With H1N1 and other contagious diseases lurking around, what can I do to protect my child from them?

Dr Tan: Ensure your child leads a healthy lifestyle and practises good hygiene habits.

On top of that, there are vaccines available to protect against certain viruses and bacteria, so check with your child’s doctor on which ones are suitable.

In Singapore, the Health Promotion Board recommends that children be given five main vaccines from birth to 12 years of age. These include:
  • BCG at birth to prevent tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis B in three doses to protect against liver disease or liver cancer
  • Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in four doses to prevent throat /nose bacterial infection, whooping cough and lockjaw respectively
  • Polio in three doses to prevent paralysis and crippling especially in children
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in two doses.
Visit the National Immunisation Registry at
eservices/eservice.jsp to find out which vaccinations are compulsory for
your child.

Get a copy of the Sep 2009 issue of Young Parents for expert advice and local tips to make you a better mum or dad. Young Parents, published by SPH Magazines, is available at all newsstands now. Check out more stories at Young Parents online,
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