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When it comes to important vaccines, there’s one that has been very much dominating our minds over the past year. But away from protection against you-know-what, there are many other important family vaccines that are essential for all members, from one-off shots to those that require updating after a few years. Whether you’re hoping to travel out of Singapore in 2022, or planning to stay-put, we can’t forget that we are essentially on a tropical island, and with that comes tropical diseases. Read on as Dr Sue Smith, General Practitioner at International Medical Clinic summarises the recommended vaccines needed for those residing in Singapore and South East Asia (SEA).
Vaccine type: Typhoid
Who needs it: Adults and children.
What it protects against: Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella. Humans are the only host/reservoir. It’s commonly transmitted through contaminated drinking water or food.
Dosage: An injection every three years for adults and children or a course of tablets that provide protection for five years. Typhoid is rare in Singapore, but there has been an increase – 30 cases in 2020 and 17 in 2021 to be exact.
Vaccine type: Hepatitis A (Hep A)
Who needs it: Adults and children. It’s also recommended for travellers over six months of age.
What it protects against: A virus that causes liver disease. The Hep A virus can be found in the stools or blood of an infected person and contracted from poor hand hygiene when preparing food. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against Hep A.
Dosage: It’s given in two doses. If you’re planning on travelling to a country where Hep A infection is common, it’s highly recommended that you get at least one dose before you travel. Although Hepatitis A is rare in Singapore, it is common in SEA.
Vaccine type: Hepatitis B (Hep B)
Who needs it: Children will receive the Hep B vaccination as part of their routine childhood vaccines. Depending on which country immunisation schedule is being followed, it can be two, three or four vaccines. At IMC we can follow any requested schedule from the French to Australian schools and everything in between.
What it protects against: A virus that causes liver disease. Hep B is a blood born virus that can also be sexually-transmitted. Travellers are relatively low risk for contracting the virus, however, if medical treatment is required whilst overseas travellers may be exposed.
Dosage: Once the routine childhood vaccines are completed you are considered vaccinated. It’s recommended that adults check their Hep B serology (a blood test that looks at your antigen and antibody levels to determine past exposure or vaccination) as immunity can waiver over an extended period. It’s best to discuss this with your GP.
Vaccine type: Measles which comes as a combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine
Who needs it: Everyone. The MMR vaccine is one of the family vaccines compulsory in Singapore. Children generally receive two doses from 12 months of age. The vaccine can be given to children in high risk areas from six months of age, but this doesn’t form part of their developmental vaccinations.
What it protects against: A highly contagious virus which is spread through the air when people cough, sneeze or breathe. Measles symptoms can include a rash, fever, cough and runny nose. It can lead to more serious lung infections and pneumonia.
Dosage: Two doses from 12 months of age. Adults who have not been vaccinated against measles in their childhood will also require two doses. Two doses are recommended before travel, and traditionally the second dose is given 28 days after the first dose. There is also a combined MMRV vaccine which includes Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (Chicken Pox). Two doses are also required for the Varicella vaccination. The combination vaccine can be given a few different ways so it’s important to discuss this with your GP.
Vaccine type: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (whooping cough) (Dtap/Tdap)
Who needs it: Everyone – the Diphtheria vaccine is compulsory in Singapore.
What it protects against: Serious bacterial infections. Tetanus can cause painful muscle tightening all over the body and can even lead to locking of the jaw. Diphtheria is caused by a strain of bacteria called Corynebacterium diptheriae which is a toxin (poison) that can lead to breathing difficulties, heart issues and even paralysis.
Dosage: Children receive three initial Dtap vaccines as part of their routine childhood vaccinations, then two booster doses to maintain protection. Routine Dtap doses are given at two months, four months, six months and 15 months through to 18 months, then four years through to six years – it all depends on your preferred immunisation schedule. Adults should have a booster Tdap dose every 8-10 years. Pregnant women should also receive Tdap during the third trimester of each pregnancy to protect their baby from whooping cough in the early stages of life.
There are differences in the Dtap/Tdap vaccines. Dtap vaccine contains a full-strength dose of all three vaccines. The Tdap provides full strength of the tetanus but reduced doses of the diphtheria and pertussis to maintain immunity in older children and adults.
Dr Sue Smith is a Graduate of the University of Southampton, UK and has a special interest in Chronic Disease Management having completed a Certificate in Diabetes in Primary Care at King’s College hospital. She became a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2017. Dr Sue is based at IMC’s Camden Clinic.
1 Orchard Blvd, #14-05/06/07 Camden Medical Centre, Orchard Blvd, Singapore 248649
Phone: 6733 4440