Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?


This question happened to come in on the same day that I took my little one for his first set of shots.  Kudos to the nurses at the Lester Immunization Clinic.  After days of agonizing over the pain that he would feel (can you tell I’m a bit phobic about vaccines?! :), it was over before I knew it!  Now let’s hope things will go as smoothly when I take my 4-year-old in for FIVE shots (I’m wincing as I wrote that). Oh, by the way, if you happen to have any suggestions on how to make vaccines easier for little ones, please let me know.

Ok, so this great question is from Okinawa Hai! reader Cristie.   She’d like to know if there’s a need to get extra vaccines for people big and small comin’ over here to the island.  Let’s help her out with this important issue, shall we?

“First of all I’d like to say, Thank you soooo much for all the wonderful information that is on this website!  My husband, myself and my 3 boys have orders to Camp Butler on Okinawa in August. The big question that I have THIS week is what vaccines do we need? My son’s doctor out in town here in North Carolina told me there are people who can’t de-board over in Okinawa because they haven’t gotten the Japanese Influenza Vaccine. So I called the Naval Hospital here on base and was told it’s optional, my husband has called around and he’s getting a lot of the “run around”.  Does anyone, since I know you all have gone through this already, know if this is required? Also if not would you recommend getting it and maybe any other strange vaccines that I don’t know about?  Thanks so much! “


  1. We are a Navy family that moved here 4 months ago. I have a 10 and 12 year old. The naval hospital in Jax FL told us that the JEV (Japanese Encephalitis Virus) vaccine was optional for family members, but mandatory for the active duty person. We all went ahead and took the 3 shot series and had no problems with it. I felt it was better safe than sorry and they have been giving that vaccine for many years. The schools here are very strict about the vaccinations that are required for entrance into school. I was not planning on getting my 12 year old the meningitis vaccine, but had to in order for him to be allowed to attend school.

  2. Me and my family are navy and we are headed to saesebo japan same question some say its mandatory and the air force base clinic told us that we dont need it and they would recommend against it i have a 3 year old and an 11 and a half month old im a little skeptical about getting the shot not just for me but for my family but i also dont want to be in japan and get stung by the wrong mesquito and find myself or my family in a world of trouble. I really need to know if it is mandatory and is it worth it.

  3. Kristine, just a heads up…you may have trouble with the area clearance because of the vaccination. I’ve heard from others that they did, but I didn’t experience that. The best way to make sure you’ll be in the clear is to contact the office that will sign off on every family members medical records. I can’t remember the name of the office that did it for us in San Diego but I remember my husband having to put together a packet of stuff for each of us and then we took all of that, along with medical records, to an office and we were each interviewed. I’m still not completely caught up on all of mine though and they let me through if that helps:) Good luck!

  4. We are moving to Okinawa in January with a 1 and 2-year old. Our youngest has not received the MMR shot. We are not anti-vaccines just wanted to wait until he is a bit older and bigger. So far, it has not been an issue with anybody in the states. I am curious if any other parent chose to wait on vaccines and were you presented with any trouble with this choice. Thanks in advance.

  5. We just got here at the end of July. My husband is an AD Marine & I think I remember him saying it was required for him. It was recommended for me..but as much as I love needles I just don’t feel like going to the naval hospital (go figure!) My daughter is 2, but was born 6 weeks preemie at 4 lbs. They suggest that even though she’s catching up just fine – she shouldn’t get it. they said it could cause way more harm than good.

  6. Before arriving on the island, I did have to get the JEV shot, and it’s given in three series in a span of three weeks – the first one, the second a week later, and the third is two weeks after that. I was told Japanese Encephalitis is not common in Japan (it was just discovered in Japan, hence the name), but if you plan to travel around Asia, its recommended. I had to have my third shot completed before I left, or else would have to complete the series again. Some people react differently to the shots, I had huge welts at the site of injection and was sore a few days after each shot.

    I think it’s better to get the shots. The travel clinic nurse told me horror stories about how deadly it could be, so I opted to get it.

    Other than that, the only other shots were to update my immunizations.

    By the way, my husband is AD AF. He arrived on the island a few months before me, but oddly enough didn’t have to get the shots. (He thinks he probably got the JEV series when he first joined.)

  7. I do know that active duty Marines are required to get the shot. It is optional for dependents. We were told we didn’t need the shot unless we were going to places like Hiji Falls, Okuma, Expo Park, and other places on the northern part of the island which is where most of the pig farms are located. We spend a lot of time in the area and opted to get the shot. I don’t think you can get the shot if you are pregnant or nursing.

  8. We didnt need the shot just my husband as he is active duty it depends on if it will make you worry free then get it but its not required for the spouses or children we have been here for alittle over a year and we have not been told to get it here or back in the USA just the active duty guys

  9. Truth is, even if you ask various clinics, they will all give you different answers. I even got different answers from the same clinic on different days (different people answered it).

    Both times I have moved here I have gotten the JE shots. First time, they were required according to our travel clinic and the second time, one said yes and one said recommended. So I got the booster for this time too. They aren’t bad and it is better to be safe than sorry.

  10. Seriously good info., everyone – thanks so much! All these great suggestions will definitely make our next visit to the immunization clinic at Lester more comfortable. Hope the comments helped you out, too, Cristie! Good luck on your journey here to Okinawa!

  11. We were told that all five of us needed it before we came but since my youngest was a preemie, I waited until we got here. At the Hospital on Camp Lester, the immunization clinic told us it was an optional shot so we opted not to get the shots (it’s a series of 3). Hope that helps!

  12. I am a dep. husband, and I never received Japanese Encephalitis vaccination, even though when we were coming this way it was listed as “Required”. Now, we are in the process of paperwork to leave the island, and it’s not come up as an issue. Here’s crossed fingers!

  13. As for the shots and coming to Okinawa we were told you don’t need anything as long as your shots are up to date. The airport in Tokyo, Osaka, and Okinawa don’t check your shot record either (good thing because I didn’t take it with me!).
    Shots and kids, nothing worked for mine. I have gotten the 5 year old ok with it, not great, just ok. We prepare him before hand and tell him it will hurt a little, like a bee sting. We then let him pick out a reward for afterwords and then drive straight there!

  14. We got here this past June (2007). As a Marine family I can say my hubby got the Japanese encephalitis vaccine (and didn’t whine much – but is prone to when in pain, do not ever tell him I said that…) but my daughter and I did not. She was starting kindergarten and got the appropriate 3 vaccines and TB test she needed according to her yellow card. I didn’t get any shots at all and thought I’d have to.

    Lan, I gave Motrin (lasts 8 hrs as opposed to Tylenol’s 4) about 30 min before the doc visit. I brought along a lollipop (her favorite kind) and promised her a 100¥ store trip with 100¥ per shot in her hand. Make sure he looks away (hold his head if you have to) because some kids can pass out from the sight of the needle. The pain REALLY isn’t bad during the shots! And Lan – you don’t look either. 🙂 Good luck.

  15. We got the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine(eventhough we don’t hang out at pig farms North of Kadena). I didn’t think it was bad-my son was fine. Okinawan children get this vaccine, mainland doesn’t. (Info from internest hubby here- he did all the research). It was optional- and we went for the stickage. Didn’t want to mess with encephalitis, plus now I can hang out with Wilbur.

  16. Are you guys talking about Japanese Encephalitis?
    Us, being Army, we received the series of shots. The Marine Corps only gives it to troops that train in the northern part of Okinawa, or so I heard from a dependent. I have no clue about the AF/Navy.
    If you can do without it please do. The series is a killer and the second shot brought me to my knees. My children however were just fine. And my husband said I was a baby. Go figure.

  17. I suggest a dose of Tylenol 30 mins – 1 hr prior to getting the shots. I also gave Tylenol at regular dosing intervals for the first 24 hours following. Also a lollipop–given right before the nurse administers the shots or right after–does wonders. You could do the same with an infant by dipping a pacifier in sugar water or offering a bottle. Their focus is directed to the sense of taste. Best of luck!