Edit ModuleShow Tags

Childhood Vaccinations in Qatar



Vaccinations can be tricky for children and parents. Children aren’t usually so keen to get a sharp needle jabbed in their arm, and parents neither want their children to get sick from a preventable disease nor experience the discomfort that may come with a jab.

Parents could explain to their kids how vaccinations work—vaccines contain weakened or dead pathogens, microorganisms that cause disease, which rally your antibodies to make the body immune to the disease. That might not make the kids feel any better, but it might be confusing enough to keep them quiet for a few minutes. 

Of course, parents don’t want their kids to get jabbed with a sharp needle without necessity, but it’s not always easy to know what to do. The majority of medical and scientific research confirms that the benefit of vaccines outweigh the risks. However, some people, and groups, argue that vaccines are harmful, contribute to the spread of disease or are unnecessary. Moreover, not every doctor, organisation or country has the same vaccination recommendations or even the same vaccines. What makes it more confusing is that the World Health Organization (WHO) has its own parameters, which not all countries follow. In fact, some countries, such as the US and India, have different standards depending on which part of the country you live in. This can be the result of certain diseases only being prevalent in specific regions or of lack of consistent funding across a nation.

For parents, this often leads to uncertainty, stress and, above all, questions—especially if you’ve lived in more than one country. Should I get my kids vaccinated? If not, will they be allowed in school? Which schedule should we follow? Should I get all the recommended vaccinations or just the required ones? 

Why vaccinate?

A number of diseases, such as diphtheria and polio, have become quite rare, but this doesn’t mean we should stop immunising children. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these diseases have been controlled primarily because of vaccines. If we stop vaccination, the diseases might become more widespread. 

Japan offers a poignant case study. During the 1970s, the nation was effective in treating pertussis (whooping cough). Approximately 80% of Japanese children received the vaccine and, in 1974, there were only 393 reported cases, none of which were fatal. As the CDC explains, this success led to a false sense of security and, by 1976, only ten percent of Japanese children were getting the pertussis vaccination. This set off an epidemic in which more than 13,000 children were infected and 41 died. Over the next few years, the number of vaccinations increased and the number of pertussis cases decreased dramatically. 

Polio is a another good example of a disease that has not been completely eradicated—it’s simply become less common. Think of it as a battle. Polio hasn’t been defeated; it’s just retreating.

As a result of the WHO Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 (http://polioeradication.org/who-we-are/strategy/), Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) reviewed the national immunisation schedule in January 2016 to switch from trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV). “Qatar has eliminated Polio since 1990,” reads a circular from the Supreme Council of Health, “but continues to be at moderate risk of polio transmission due to outbreaks and polio endemic countries in the region.”    

Many countries, including Qatar, recognise World Immunisation Week in April every year. SCH and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) urge families to follow the nation’s vaccinations schedule and protect children, starting at birth when they’re most susceptible to life-threatening illness.

If we get our children immunised, and follow the recommended vaccination schedule, we’ll come closer to realising the goal of the WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan, which is to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through universal access to vaccines for people in all communities.

Are vaccinations safe? 

Vaccinations save lives. This is an established scientific fact. The WHO puts it quite clearly, “The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines.” A 2014 study from the CDC shows that, in the past 20 years, vaccines have prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalisations, more than 700,000 deaths, USD 295 billion in medical expenses, and over USD 1 trillion of indirect societal costs. 

Despite these figures, not everyone gets their children immunised. Some believe that vaccines are harmful. While it’s true that some vaccines can trigger the onset of mild symptoms, such as nausea or a rash, it’s quite rare (in many cases impossible) to contract the disease itself. According to Vaccines Today, the online platform of Vaccines Europe, the MMR vaccine causes a mild skin rash in approximately five percent of cases. If a child does not get the vaccine and contracts measles, he or she has a one in 1,000 chance of developing encephalitis, inflammation of the brain. Conversely, measles encephalitis only occurs in one out of a million children who’ve received the MMR vaccination. 

Some parents are worried that vaccines can lead to autism. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, this is simply not true. “Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.” Studies noted that the first signs of autism are often spotted around the same time that children receive many of their immunisations, but no direct correlation between the two has been established.  

Is there a chance that your child will come down with a disease even after being immunised? According to the CDC, there is a small chance, between one and five percent, depending on the vaccine. For example, one dose of the MMR vaccine keeps 95% of children from getting measles. However, after being given a second dose of the vaccine, this figure rises to almost 100%.

Another reason some parents neglect vaccination is the idea that natural infection—getting the disease—is more effective than a series of inoculations. While natural infection can be beneficial in developing immunity, many of the diseases that vaccines fight are quite dangerous. As the Mayo Clinic explains on its website, varicella (chickenpox) can cause pneumonia, while mumps can lead to deafness. According to Dr. Mohammad Janahi, chairman of HMC’s department of paediatrics and head of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Committee, “Many of these vaccine-preventable diseases are untreatable once the child is infected, for instance poliomyelitis, which can cause paralysis.” Allowing children to contract these diseases in order to become naturally immune is too risky. Vaccination is a much safer option.

Immunisations and schools

Janahi recommends following the Qatar vaccination schedule to families living in Qatar. He urges parents to get their children immunised without falling behind or missing any of the required vaccines. “Children must show evidence of complete immunisation upon registration into many schools,” he explains.  

Accordingly, the American School of Doha (ASD) requires prospective students to present a certificate of immunisation attesting that the student is current on his or her vaccinations. Furthermore, the school nurse keeps these records and will advise the administration and parents whenever further immunisations are required.

The Doha English Speaking School also requires students to have a complete vaccination record in order to attend. However, they may follow the schedule from their country of origin. Phoenix Private School follows the same policy. According to Student Services Coordinator Zenub Khan, children are required to present up-to-date vaccination cards in order to enrol, but they may follow the immunisation schedule from their home country. 

According to Helen Reidy, Health Consultant at the Gulf English School, vaccinating children “is up to the discretion of parents. The school does promote the importance of vaccinations and records are requested upon enrolment and yearly for updating our records, but many parents are noncompliant.” She goes on to explain, “Expatriate children often follow their own home country immunisation programme and obtain vaccines while back in their country of origin during holidays.”

In other words, the vaccination policy is flexible and cosmopolitan in Qatar. The local schedule is preferred but not mandatory. Schools recognise that many students here come from different cultures with their own regulations, so they are allowed to follow the immunisation schedules of their home country. The most important thing is that they get vaccinated and that a recognised schedule is strictly followed. 

Leaving Qatar

If you plan on leaving Qatar, it’s important to do research. Each country has its own rules and vaccination schedule. In the UK, for example, vaccinations are strongly encouraged, but not compulsory for children entering school. In the US vaccines are mandatory and children must follow the US schedule, regardless of where they come from. However, it is possible in some states to be granted a waiver for religious or medical reasons. 

Sheila Heller, school nurse at the British International School (BIS) in Washington, DC, says that American vaccination policies are strict. Students at BIS must adhere to the US timetable and no exceptions are made. 

Before moving, check with the embassy of the country you’re moving to, the department of health, and your child’s new school to make sure you know all the relevant policies regarding vaccination.

How do the schedules vary?

This is a lot to absorb so here’s some practical information to make your job a little easier. The following table lists mandatory and recommended vaccinations by country of residence. See your child’s paediatrician or health care provider for more details. Other vaccinations may be required for travellers and certain at-risk groups.

Vaccine

Egypt

India

Qatar

US

UK

Australia

BCG

1 week

birth

birth

 

birth only to high risk groups

 

DTwPHibHepB

2, 4, 6 months

6, 10, 14 weeks*

2, 6 months

   

DTaP

4-6 years

2, 4, 6, 18 months; 4 years

  18 months

DTwP

18 months

16–24 months; 5 years

 

DT

2, 4, 6, 18 months

   

2, 4, 6, 15 months; 4 years

   

MMR

12, 18 months

 

12, 18 months

1, 4–6 years

12 months; 3 years and 4 months (40 months)

12 months

MMRV

 

128 months

Td

7, 9 years

         

MenAC

4, 6, 12, 15 years

         

IPV

2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 months

14 weeks  

2, 4, 6–15 months; 4–6 years

   

Influenza

^ yearly, age 2+

^ yearly, age 2+

^ yearly, age 6 months+

^ yearly, age 6 months+

^ yearly, age 2–7 and 1–3 for children in school

^ yearly, age 6 months+

OPV

2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 months

birth, 6, 10, 14 weeks; 16–24 months

4, 6, 18 months; 4–6 years

     

HepA

 

 

12, 18 months

12, 18 months

 

 

HepB

2, 4, 6 months

birth

birth

 

High risk groups only

birth

TT

 

10, 16 years

       

JE_LiveATD

 

9, 16-24 months*

       

Vitamin A

 

9, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42 months

       

HPV

     

11–12 years, three doses

12-13 years, 2 doses

12-13 years

Measles

 

9, 16-24 months

       

DTaPHib

   

15 months

     

Hexavalent (DTaPHibHepIPV)

   

4 months

   

2, 4, 6 months

Pneumo_conj

   

2, 4, 6, 15 months

2, 4, 6, 12–15 months

8,16 weeks

2, 4, 6 months

Tdap

   

13-16 years

11 years

 

10–15 years, two doses

Rotavirus

   

2, 4 months

2, 4, 6 months

2, 3 months

2, 4, 6 months

Varicella

   

12 months; 4-6 years

1, 4-6 years

birth

10-15 years

TdIPV

       

14 years

 

MenC_conj

       

3 months, 14-18 years

 

MenACWY

     

^ under certain conditions, 11, 16 years

^ for specific groups, such as asplenics

 

HibMenC

       

12 months

12 months

DTaPIPV

     

4 years, two doses

3 years and 4 months (40 months)

4 years

DTaPHibIPV

     

2, 4, 6 months

8, 12, 16 weeks

 

DTaPHepBIPV

     

2, 4, 6 months

   

Hib

     

2, 4, 6, 12–15 months

   

Typhoid

   

^

     

*  Mandatory only in some parts of the country
^  Recommended, but not mandatory

Getting vaccinated in Qatar

So now we know what immunisations to get, but where can we get them? There are many hospitals, clinics and medical centres throughout Qatar that offer vaccinations.  Call one of these centres for times and regulations. Childhood vaccines are administered free of charge through Primary Health Centres.

The takeaway

Vaccinations may be complicated and painful, but they are important. According to The Guardian newspaper, 95% of new students in the US are immunised, whereas in England and Wales the figure is only 78%. This may seem like a minor discrepancy, but in 2008 there was a measles outbreak in the UK with a record 1,328 confirmed cases in England and Wales. The US, with a population six times greater, had only 135 cases. The statistics consistently agree that, to ensure a healthy society, everyone needs to get immunised.immunised, whereas in England and Wales the figure is only 78%. This may seem like a minor discrepancy, but in 2008 there was a measles outbreak in the UK with a record 1,328 confirmed cases in England and Wales. The US, with a population six times greater, had only 135 cases. The statistics consistently agree that, to ensure a healthy society, everyone needs to get immunised.

As Reidy says, “Vaccines prolong and save lives. Being fully vaccinated is the best safeguard and helps protect the whole community.”
So what’s the first step? Get your child all the mandatory vaccines for Qatar or your home country. Contact your child’s school to see what schedule they require. Next, talk to your doctor about recommended vaccines. Depending on your medical history, where you’ve travelled or plan to travel and other risk factors, more vaccinations may be warranted. Some vaccines have multiple doses and you need to wait several months in-between, so get started as soon as possible. The safety of your child, and everyone’s, depends on it.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign Up

Edit Module

Doha Family Guide


Edit Module