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BCG for expat baby - did you give it to your child?

  1. #1
    woodk6 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Hong Kong

    BCG for expat baby - did you give it to your child?

    I was told by my pediatrician to do some research on the BCG vaccine to decide whether or not we want to give it to our baby. We're from the US where it is not given due to questions about it's efficacy. The other probelm is that in the US, where we'll be returning to, children go through a battery of TB tests when they want to go to school, summer camp, etc and so there is a risk that she may test positive if we give her the vaccine. If she does test positive, a mere record of receiving it won't be enough because in the US they don't think it's effective so she'll probably be given a chest x ray. Even if the x ray is clear, she'll receive a high dose of antibiotics. And in some cases she may be declined from entering camps, etc. I'm told.

    I also just read on the WHO website that:
    "BCG is widely used and the safety of this vaccine has not been a serious issue until recently. There is a concern that use of the vaccine in persons who are immune compromised may result is an infection caused by the BCG itself. Also, even among immune competent persons, local reactions, including ulceration at the site of vaccination may result in shedding of live organisms which could infect others who may be immune compromised."

    He said that if we were going to be living in HK for 2 years or less he would not do it. We're unsure how long we'll be here. The plan is 5 years but we return to the US for 5 months out of every year. Just curious to see how many people in the same boat gave the vaccine to their kids. I read that something like 1 in 13 people in HK get tuberculosis. Granted we rarely leave Central or the island in general, but still I think those are high odds.


  2. #2
    bekyboo44 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Discovery Bay, Hong Kong


    Our son had the BCG vaccination because it is automatically given to babies born in HK. I also had the vaccination as a child when we first moved to HK. My brothers were given the vaccination as children in their ESF school.

    TB use to be a huge problem in HK- is no longer such a problem as living conditions have improved and as everyone gets vaccinated! But it is still here and it is extremely contaigous. Children are vaccinated to stop them getting TB but also to stop them passing it on.

    I never really thought about it because it was automatically given to my son, and everyone I know has it. Plus we are in HK long term.

  3. #3
    ninahudd is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Hong Kong

    Same here, baby was jsut given it automatically and I didn't question it. Can't help with the whole US thing but good on you for doing the research!

  4. #4
    pfydo's Avatar
    pfydo is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    I'm also from the US and we did not give the vaccine to our baby (now 10 months old). A previous ex-pat told us that they did not either because of the inevitable hassle when their child would try to enter a US school and have to get a chest x-ray to prove they are not positive. And on a side note, the inoculation leaves a significant scar on the arm. When we arrived in HK and my son was 6 months old, our HK pediatrician was perfectly fine that he did not have it and didn't recommend it. But I must say that we're only staying here for 2 years. Anyway, good luck with your decision :-)

  5. #5
    kar is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Hong Kong

    We're American and both of our kids have had the BCG. Our first was born here and received it at Matilda. Our second was born in the US (during SARS) and brought him up to the Matilda when we returned to have the injection. I've already been here 11 years and we have no plans to return to the US in the relative near future. The kids and I spend the summer back home and we haven't had any problems. Perhaps things have radically changed but I only had a TB test once in my life (in the US)---how often do kids have this done? When I moved here to teach, I had to have a chest x-ray to prove I didn't have TB...

    Anyway, go with what you feel comfortable with.

  6. #6
    jools is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Discovery Bay

    Just two thought that sprung to mind. We've had two babies born in Hong Kong and both had the BCG at the Matilda. The doctor gave then the injection at the top of the leg and in both cases no scars. The other point was, you said that they would give your child a course of antibiotics-I'm assuming that you wouldn't have to take them; just a thought.

  7. #7
    geiboyi is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    cheung chau

    Please bear in mind that TB is a very real risk in Asia - and it is contagious. Your helper could pick it up on a trip home, your child could pick it up from other children at school, HK is a crowded place, people cough all over the place, I wouldn't take the risk, personally. Just my opinion. (My kids got the shot in their arm - wish I had asked for the leg instead, as I suspect it will leave a scar - not important, I know, but if I did it again...)

  8. #8
    madaboutCows is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Hong Kong

    If you are going to be spending a few more years in Asia then I would definitely recommend having it done as like Geiboyi says it is a real risk. I gave birth to both of my boys in the UK but arranged for them to have it done as an additional vaccine, both in the arm, but the scaring is very minimal. Like you I rarely stay in HK for the full year but it was something I didn't want to risk.

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