As if vaccinations aren’t confusing, complicated, and controversial enough, try adding into the mix an internationally adopted child. If you’re planning to adopt overseas, you should consider the following to take some of the “ouchie” out of this painful, yet necessary process so that you can be there to hold your little one’s hand in the doctor’s office rather than having your hands tied up in red tape.
As you begin your adoption journey, become familiar with the vaccination practices and policies in your chosen country (exciting reading material, I know). Speak with your adoption coordinator for current information regarding common in-country vaccination practices to avoid surprises later on.
Once you receive your adoption referral (congratulations and yippee!), speak directly to your child’s caregiver about your child’s medical records. Don’t assume anything and don’t be afraid to ask important questions. Even if you’ve adopted before, things change and your little one is unique and will have had different experiences. Take notes! You may never get another chance to speak in person with the people who have had a hand in raising your child before you. When the big day comes, no doubt things such as medical history details are going to be the last thing on your mind–but they will forever be important to your child.
Know the Process
At the time of presentation, the orphanage and/or agency should provide you with her existing medical history files. Of course, depending on the situation, it may or may not be complete/accurate, but they should supply you with as much information (including any vaccinations that may have been administered) as they know/have been given.
Again, when it comes time for the first home check up, registering for school, etc., these details will be necessary and you child is entitled to know as much as is available.
Children being internationally adopted are required to undergo a medical evaluation by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate approved physician before being granted a travel visa/passport to to exit their birth country and enter into the United States. Take time during this visit to ask any questions you may have regarding what to expect concerning future vaccinations or other matters.
Welcome to the United States
In addition to a beautiful welcome home party hosted by your anxious family and friends, please keep in mind that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, all international adoptees should also expect to receive vaccines according to the U.S. Childhood Immunization Schedule. You can also visit the National Vaccine Information Center for FAQs regarding U.S. laws and policies concerning internationally adopted children.
The Doctor is In
Before your adoption is complete, seek out domestic pediatricians familiar with international adoption. These folks may better know how to weed through the sometimes thick, confusing, and incomplete medical charts (some countries will offer translation services). Not every pediatrician has handled an adopted infant/toddler or older child from another country. Speak to your agency, get referrals from other adoptive families, and do your research online as to what to know and what to ask your child’s physician.
Come prepared to you child’s first pediatric visit back home (aka bring your paperwork and your questions). By following along with all of the above, you should have a pretty good medical file to present to your child’s physician.
According to the CDC website, “If you are unsure as to whether or not your child was vaccinated, the doctor can have their blood tested for antibodies to determine immunity to certain diseases. However, these tests may not always be accurate, so the doctor may not be sure your child is truly protected. In some cases, doctors may prefer to revaccinate your child anyway for best protection. It is safe for your child to be revaccinated, even if your child received that vaccine in their birth country. Talk to your child’s doctor to determine what vaccines are needed to protect against diseases”.
The key factor is making sure you ask lots of questions and seek the counsel of experienced and competent professionals. Your adoption agency can also help you determine what is best.