Typhoid? BCG? Meningitis, rotavirus, chicken pox? The world of vaccinations can be rather confusing, especially when you’re in that post-birth blur and can’t quite remember what day of the week it is, never mind what you’re supposed to be doing with your baby. Here’s our handy guide to immunisations in the UAE...

1. Where do I start?

Your first experience of vaccinations will likely occur before you’ve even left the hospital; many doctors here administer the BCG jab in the first couple of days following baby’s birth. Once you get home, the best plan of action is to discuss options with your paediatrician, who can give you advice on what vaccinations are currently recommended, standard and optional. You’ll also be able to find out how best to manage vaccination days, discover what to expect from your baby and discuss options for managing any post-vaccination side effects. And of course, you’ll find a world of information online; a few suggestions are babycentre.co.uk, nidirect.gov.uk and kidshealth.org.

2. Which schedule should I follow?

Most clinics in the UAE tend to follow either the US or the UK schedules for infant and child vaccinations. To find out more and decide which schedule suits you best, you can consult your child’s paediatrician and also check out these websites; gov.uk has the full UK immunisation schedule, complete with age, diseases protected against, vaccine and trade name and site of injection, while cdc.gov/vaccines/ provides details of the full US immunisation schedule.

3. Will vaccinations be covered by insurance?

Some health insurance providers include cover for vaccinations, either through direct billing or via pay and claim, but many don’t as preventative medicine is often excluded from cover. If yours won’t cough up, you’ll need to budget for your child’s vaccination schedule as it can prove quite costly. Prices vary between clinics but you can expect to pay anywhere from Dh800 to Dh1,500 for the first set at eight weeks, with subsequent sets more or less depending on the schedule you’re following and the number of vaccinations given at each point on the schedule.

4. Going down the government clinic route

Private clinics aren’t your only option for vaccinations in the UAE, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover preventative medicine and budget is an issue; if you have a valid residency visa, you can visit your local government-run clinic to open a file and you’ll be entitled to free vaccinations for children up to the age of five.

5. The entitlement to free jabs covers all vaccinations on the government schedule, but not any that are considered optional. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Visit the relevant emirate’s hospital with your child’s documents: passport, visa, birth certificates and Emirates ID. Take along your own documents and your husband’s as well, as some mums report needing them too.
  • Take along a copy of your utilities bill (Dewa, Sewa etc.) so the hospital can assign you to your local clinic
  • Collect your health card
  • Contact your local clinic with all your baby’s documents as above, as well as the new health card, to make an appointment to open a file (you may well have to visit in person instead of just calling). Once you’ve opened a file, you’ll be able to make your first appointment, where you’ll have a consultation with a paediatrician before vaccinations are given.

6. What do I do if my child has missed any vaccinations, or if we’re late having them done?

Don’t worry. There are plenty of reasons children miss vaccinations – fever, sickness, travel – and your paediatrician will be able to work out a new programme for you so you can catch up.

7. Are there any nursery or school vaccination programmes I can join?

While nurseries and schools don’t currently run routine vaccination programmes, do keep an eye on communication from your child’s nursery as recently there have been some government-organised vaccination programmes in response to worldwide health advice. You’ll be given the choice of whether to opt in or not, and – if you decide to have the vaccination at nursery/school – be able to choose whether or not you want to be there with your child when they receive the vaccine.

You can find up-to-date information on the UAE’s guidelines for immunisation at dha.gov.ae

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