Maids who look after children and the elderly need to get a measles vaccination, a report has said. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong’s healthcare authorities have heightened alerts after a measles outbreak in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture. A doctor with the surveillance and epidemiology branch of the Hong Kong government’s Centre for Health Protection told reporters on Monday that a study had found that those who had not been vaccinated could be the most vulnerable to the highly contagious disease, with the most visible symptom being a red blotchy skin rash.

Statistics-wise, more than 90% of local adults confirmed with measles or rubella infections did not get the MMR vaccine against measles and other related diseases. Among them, all foreign domestic workers surveyed by the center in the past year had no vaccination history, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported.

As maids  spend most of their time looking after children, the elderly with low immunity and infants too young to be vaccinated, the center has recommended that employers and employment agencies ask if potential employees have been vaccinated and, if not, offer them MMR vaccines, preferably prior to their arrival in Hong Kong.

Relatively low vaccination rates against measles in the Philippines and Indonesia are a source of concern as well: 80% and 76% respectively in 2016, lower than the World Health Organization’s attainment rate of 95%. Most of the 350,000 helpers in Hong Kong hail from the two countries.

Yet the center has no plans to mandate compulsory vaccination as helpers’ own rights must also be respected. The Hong Kong Employers of Domestic Helpers Association has prodded the government to make vaccinations a must and to foot part of the expenses.

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