Immunisation vs. Immunization

The title above not only refers to the difference in convention of spelling adopted in British English as opposed to that adopted in American English.

image I’ve just recently found out that here in the UK, not only are the recommended immunization schedules different from those in Japan, but there are also required vaccinations for diseases which are not required in Japan. I expected that there would some differences, of course, as conventions vary from country to country. It also depends largely on how old your child is.

However, I was surprised to know that in the UK immunization scheme, Aya is overdue for not just one, but several types of routine childhood vaccines necessary for living in the UK.

Of course, before we left Japan, I made sure that Aya has gotten all her required vaccinations. Just last May she had her MR (measles/rubella) "pre-school" booster shot, one of the requirements for children who will be entering elementary school next fiscal year. Last year I even had her vaccinated for mumps, which is only optional in Japan but available at any clinic or hospital for a certain fee.

After we have registered at a GP (general practitioner) here in Cambridge, we promptly got a letter informing us of the recommended childhood vaccinations that Aya has to receive. Among those are the following:

  • Hib – Haemophilus influenzae b
  • MenC – Meningococcus Group C
  • MMR – Measles, Mumps and Rubella
  • DTP/Polio – Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, and Polio

That many? Yes, it was quite a shock for me. Apparently, the requirements from country to country are different, depending on the prevalence of diseases in the area. I noticed that in the UK they no longer offer BCG immunization to children, whereas in Japan it is still required to protect children against tuberculosis.

Well, I certainly don’t want my daughter getting sick with any kind of serious disease during our relatively short stay here. So it’s not that hard to decide with regards to the first two. Hib and MenC are combined into one injection, so that can be taken cared of in one visit.

As for the MMR and DTP/Polio – well, it’s a bit difficult. The convention in Japan is for children to take the measles and rubella vaccines separately. And as I had mentioned above, the mumps vaccine is actually optional. Aya has had both measles and rubella vaccinations when she was a baby, and her MR preschool booster just this year. But here in the UK, MMR is given in one injection, and apparently by this time she should be getting her MMR "pre-school" booster. I was told that the "M" and "R" vaccinations she got separately in Japan were not really considered to be effective. I wondered, if that were true, then as a result we would probably see a prevalence of measles and rubella in Japan because all children are immunized in exactly the same way. But clearly, that is not the case at all. Who knows how exactly the authorities decide on these routine immunizations? And why don’t all countries adopt a similar scheme anyway? I could only imagine how difficult it would be for country-hopping parents to decide on which vaccinations they will allow their children to have as they move from country to country.

Anyway, the same goes with the DTP/Polio. As required in Japan, Aya had her DTP injections when she was a baby, and she has completed all three required shots. Her booster was given just after she turned two. So that’s a total of four DTP injections. However, here in the UK, the DTP booster is required to be given within three and five years of age. As explained to me, the DTP booster she received when she was two years old was not sufficient, and it is recommended for her to take the booster again here.

She had also completed her polio vaccinations when she was a baby, and there were no required booster for polio at her age (though I’m not sure if there would be a booster required when she’s older). But here in the UK, the polio vaccine is given in combination with the DTP.

At any rate, except for the MMR vaccine, I’ve decided for Aya to get the other vaccinations recommended by the GP. A vaccination is no guarantee that the disease will never be contracted, but it still offers the best line of defense.

Easy for me to say! After all, I’m not the one getting the injections!

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2 Responses to Immunisation vs. Immunization

  1. mitsuru says:

    unlike in countries where tb is endemic (mostly third world), bcg is no longer required in most western/ first world countries since tb is no longer a threat and it is supposed to be eradicated. that’s why whenever there’s a case of suspected tb in patients in the hospital, nagpa- panic agad ang mga tao. isolation agad complete with n95 masks. the people from asia and eastern europe who had bcg at birth, tawa lang ng tawa. he-he.

  2. kathy says:

    Hahah, that’s a funny one. But I could imagine how scary it would be if a supposedly eradicated disease would suddenly show up. Prior to coming here, I didn’t know that BCG is no longer a routine immunization in most western/First World countries. BCG is indeed still required in Japan – could it be because it’s located in Asia?

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