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For expats, it can feel overwhelming to understand what vaccinations you and your children need. Each country has a unique immunisation schedule. In this new episode of Abroad With Care, Andrea interviews Mélissandre Noël, general practitioner in Singapore. She shares with us the ins and outs of vaccinations in Asia.

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First, it is quite important to understand the vaccination culture in Asia. How are vaccinations perceived, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong?

In Singapore and in Hong Kong, the local population believes that the healthcare system is of high-quality and that leaders know what they are doing and have their best interest at heart. Patients go to the expert and follow their medical advice. Most people tend to trust the medical health system. 

How is the immunisation schedule built? 

The vaccination schedule in Singapore is vaccine-heavy in the first two years of a child’s life. The goal is to minimise the spread of any disease because it is such a small and compact country. It could have dramatic effects. Kids are expected to have completed their primary series by the age of 11. This is similar to the American, Australians, and most European schedules. 

What are the mandatory vaccinations?

In Hong Kong, there is no mandatory vaccination for expats. In Singapore, there are two mandatory ones: diphtheria and measles. Since 2019, the Ministry of Health has made those two immunizations mandatory for anybody who wants to obtain a work visa or any type of long-term visitor passes. 

What vaccinations would you recommend expats to take to keep safe in Asia? 

International travel has been on hold for the past 18 months. But when people can travel around Southeast Asia again, we recommend two vaccinations: hepatitis A and typhoid fever. They are not present in Hong Kong or Singapore but they would be present in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia… They are quite easy to catch.

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Vaccination can often be a complex topic for parents. What is mandatory vaccination for children? 

For Hong Kong, there is no mandatory vaccination. However, babies born in Hong Kong would be offered the tuberculosis vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine. It is the same for babies born in Singapore. 

What vaccinations would you recommend for children flying back to their home country?

People who live in countries like Hong Kong and Singapore are fortunate because pretty much all the vaccines are available there. The schedule is very similar to most of our home countries. The main vaccine that we tend to recommend to children flying back home is the meningococcal vaccine. Even if it is just for a short stay of a few weeks in their home countries.

Let’s move to a more current topic. When it comes to COVID-19 pandemic, what is Singapore's vaccination strategy? 

Singapore tends to be a very risk-averse country. When the cases started to go up, they were very quick to purchase vaccines. 81% of the general population has been vaccinated. That takes into account the fact that 9% of the population are kids under the age of 12 who are not eligible to take the vaccine yet. They have done a great job promoting the vaccine. 

The two recognised vaccines are the two ARN-vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. Sinovac and Sinofarm are also approved and available in Singapore to enable people to travel to China. They have made it mandatory for some sectors such as healthcare and food & beverage. Vaccinated people are able to enjoy more freedom. They can gather in bigger social groups and have shorter quarantine periods when coming back from abroad. 

Does Hong Kong follow the same strategy? 

It is a different story. Last time I checked a few days ago, 45% of the population was fully vaccinated. The elderly are more reluctant to take the vaccine. Having said that, taking the vaccine is free and widely available. They have made it mandatory for some sectors too. Hong Kong is ramping up their efforts. 

How much does it cost?

In Hong Kong, childhood immunization is free for any child under the age of 5. Whether you are a citizen or an expat, your child can take the vaccines that are part of the schedule for free in Maternal and Child Health Centres. Other vaccines that are not part of the schedule are available in private clinics.

In Singapore, there is no free vaccination for expatriate children. It is more affordable in public hospitals. However, the doctors there may not be as flexible with the immunisation schedule. SO if parents want to follow the immunization schedule of their home countries, in terms of timing and doses, then a private clinic would offer a better service. 

At APRIL International Care, we are specialist in designing and delivering flexible international health insurance for individuals, families and companies in Asia. For more information, explore our MyHEALTH plans for expats in Asia. 

You can contact our different offices around Asia and request a quote, our experts will be happy to assist you!

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