Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What Shots / Vaccines are Required to Visit, Live, Work, or Study in Korea?

Updated 30 October 2017

I'm not going to get into the whole pro-vaccine vs. anti-vaccine debate. I'm simply going to share the facts about visiting, living, working, or studying in Korea. Any pro or anti-vaccine comments will be deleted. Thank you for understanding.

The Short Answer
No vaccines are required to visit, live, work (however, certain employers may require them), or study in Korea. While no vaccines are required to enter or exit Korea, the CDC recommends certain vaccines. Please see below for more detail about specific situations.

The Long Answer
Visiting and Living
None are required. The CDC recommends certain vaccines, but if you don't have them you can still come here. What shots you decide to get (if any) will depend on your lifestyle, where you travel in Korea, and what you are exposed to. Certain people are more at risk to getting diseases than others.

They may be required depending on your career field and employer requirements. For example, if you work in the health profession, you might be required to get vaccines to keep your job. This means you can either change employers, change career fields, or get the required vaccines.

Can You Leave Korea if You Have No Vaccines?
I heard a story about a woman telling people that a child was not allowed to leave the country because they hadn't had their shots. This is completely untrue. No shots are required to enter Korea and none are required to leave. The country that you're going into may require vaccines but that's a different matter. I've traveled widely, even to countries with epidemics and although I also carry my  yellow international vaccine booklet, I have never been asked to show it.

Are Vaccines Required if Your Child is Born in Korea?
Both my children were born in Korea with Korean medical professionals. The first was born vaginally in a birthing center and the second was supposed to be born at home but ended up being born via emergency C-section at a hospital due to her heart rate dropping severally low. Right at birth or a few days following birth, babies born in Korea usually are given the following if you do not opt out.
  • Hepatitis B
  • Erythromycin (eye medicine)
  • Vitamin K
  • BGC (Tuberculosis) 
  • PKU test
This is standard but they are not required to get anything; you can opt out, just make sure you have it in writing otherwise more likely than not they will get them. You can still leave the hospital if you don't get any of them or just choose to get some of them. They're not going to keep you there and make you get shots.

If you get your child an ARC (alien card) then they will have a national vaccine record. It's very convenient. Basically you can walk into any hospital or clinic, large or small, give them your child's alien number and they can pull up their vaccine record that states where and when they got that shot.

When you take your child to the pediatrician after they are born, they will get a booklet with information about their height and weight charts, vaccine schedule, and other things. On the vaccine schedule they will have one section for standard / required vaccines and another for optional vaccines. However, no vaccines are actually required.

You do not have to get any vaccines for your child. Your doctor may give you a hard time, but your children are not going to be taken away from you. I don't know of anyone whose doctor has refused to see their child after they decided not to do some (or any) of the vaccines. What most people are faced with is a doctor that is totally confused about why you don't want that shot. Koreans traditionally do not ask doctors questions. When doctors have appointments with foreigners they usually spend twice as long talking since foreigners do ask questions. The good news is that playing the foreigner card seems to help out a lot. Saying something like, "We don't do that in our country." or "It's against my belief." may help.

Are Vaccines Required for Korean Schools?
No, they're not. Schools will ask for vaccine records, but if you don't have all of them, or don't have any of them you should be fine. If you only have some shots, just give them what you have. If you don't have any, then write none. This works for daycare all the way up to university, but the government doesn't start getting involved until they hit elementary school. I don't know of anyone who has had to fill out an exemption form like they require in certain countries. The only issue I have heard of is if there is an outbreak and your child is found to be responsible for that outbreak then they can be expelled. The School of ROK has information about shots and schooling. I haven't found any actual rules (my Korean isn't that good) so if you know of any please let me know.

Are Vaccines Required for International Schools?
As far as international schools go, it depends on the school, so ask. Different countries follow different rules. What's required for a French international school will probably be different than what's required for an American international school. If it's required, ask if there are exemptions. There are usually three types of exemptions: philosophical, religious, and medical. Most schools will not tell you there are exemptions: you have to ask! Remember, it's against your religion to get vaccines. Hopefully they will accommodate you.

Are Vaccines Required for Military DODEA Schools (Schools on Base) or the CDC?
I know that DOD (i.e. schools on base) do require vaccines. What they neglect to say on their website is that they accept medical exemptions as well as religious exemptions. A simple call to the school  should clarify it. If they say no, ask to speak to someone else, because they do accept both medical and religious (and you don't have to be religious to get a religious exemption, see below for more info) exemptions. Please see the links below about religious exemptions for more information about the specific codes that allow them and what to write on the exemption forms.

You can even find an outdated exemption form here on their website. Unfortunately, they have no uploaded any recent ones. You need to ask the office for DoDEA Form 4 SHSM H-2-2. As you can see here, whoops, they left it off. They also neglect to mention here and here that exemptions are allowed. They do mention it here, that you can get a waiver for vaccines.

DODEA Flu Shot Requirement
Flu shots are now required for DODEA schools and they can disenroll your child if you don't get them one. Good news is that you can simply file a religious exemption solely for the flu shot. Sounds weird, but ironically no one has had issues with getting all their vaccines but claiming religion and getting out of the flu shot.

The CDC can be more difficult, however someone said that they printed out pages 10 and 16 from Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis (entitled pages 6 and 10 inside the actual document), and brought them to CYS with their religious waiver.

Religious Exemptions
You don't have go to church or even belong to any religion to claim religious exemptions. Here's information about religious exemptions for DOD schools. Pretty much anyone can claim a religious exemption. You MUST write it in your own words. Don't just copy and paste. Here's information explaining how your personal beliefs will qualify you for a religious exemption. Both links have forms you can use to turn into the schools. You may or may not need to get the Chief of Preventive Medicine to sign them. Preventive Medicine is not located at the 121, but it's in a separate building near the commissary at Yongsan. It's building 5447 and their phone number is 0503-337-1750. They said they're the building before gate 6 near the commissary in the building that looks like a bungalow.

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