Vaccination & Mobility – New Requirements and Attitudes Are Shaping Migration

Although some parents are hesitant about child vaccinations, Singapore requires vaccination of children younger than 12 against measles and diptheria as a matter of law.

On 1 February 2019, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) introduced new vaccination requirements for children under the age of 12 that must be met before applying for dependent passes. The policy requires foreign-born children to be vaccinated against measles and diphtheria and also pertains to children applying for student and long-term visit passes. As with the Singaporean authorities’ stance on childhood vaccination for Singaporean citizens, there appears to be little leeway for exemptions for expatriates under this new policy—the only exception is that those with medical conditions can be exempted if medically certified.

As a small country with a high population density, Singapore considers vaccinations an effective way to control the spread of preventable infectious diseases. When severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) first hit Singapore in the early 2000s, Singapore’s tourism, travel, and manufacturing industries were severely affected, and GDP growth contracted sharply by 7% in the second quarter of 2003. Alongside the detrimental impacts to its economy, the disease also claimed 33 lives and resulted in a nationwide closure of schools for two weeks. 

Anti-vax movements have surfaced for a variety of reasons, ranging from infringement of individual rights to religious, pseudoscientific, and in some cases, legitimate medical concerns.

With anti-vaccination (“anti-vax”) movements active in Asia and other parts of the world, the policy may be considered by some to have appeared at an inopportune time. In some parts of the world such programs may be perceived as an infringement of rights. Anti-vax movements have surfaced for a variety of reasons, ranging from infringement of individual rights to religious, pseudoscientific, and in some cases, legitimate medical concerns. The Philippines and Malaysia attempted and withdrew vaccination campaigns.

Nonetheless, the benefits of well-tested vaccinations outweigh the risks.  According to a WHO report, an estimated 11,000 people—mainly children—died from measles in 2017. Germany, the Russian Federation, and Venezuela also had large measles outbreaks in the same year, leading to withdrawal of their measles-free certification by WHO. Global vaccine coverage for the first dose of measles vaccine also stalled at 85%, and for the second dose at 67%. A coverage rate of 95% is needed to prevent outbreaks (Reuters, 30 November 2018). Most recently in 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported 206 confirmed cases of measles nationwide within the first two months of the year—the highest number reported since 1992 (Fortune,
9 March 2019). 

How, then, should we as mobility professionals combat any negative effects of the anti-vax movement? If education is the key, can organizations tap into the expertise of benefits programs within HR to implement a hybrid of medical and cultural training initiatives? 

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are definitely opportunities to be creative and to approach recruitment strategies from a combination of cultural, religious, and other lenses.

The above information is excerpted from an article that appears in the July 2019 issue of Mobility Magazine.  Read the full article

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