ABWE Vaccination Policy FAQs
1. To whom do ABWE’s vaccination guidelines apply?
We care deeply about the health of all ABWE missionaries and families. However, in keeping with US laws regarding employee privacy, our vaccination guidelines only apply to those living internationally and serving mid- or long-term.
2. Who decides which vaccines are included in the recommended vaccine list?
The initial recommended vaccine list was the product of an ABWE taskforce which included input from experts in medical, human resources, and theological disciplines. ABWE’s medical director makes periodical updates as needed to match standards of care.
3. Why is there an “additional” suggested vaccine list?
The additional suggested vaccination list includes all other available vaccinations, which are entirely optional to ABWE missionaries—meaning that no waiver or medical exemption is required for missionaries who decline.
4. How are country-specific vaccinations decided?
Country-specific vaccination requirements are based on the US standard of care for global travel and country requirements. These may be honed to the specific city or region where the missionary will live. New missionaries can discuss any questions they have with our medical director during the onboarding process.
5. How could a missionary’s choice about vaccinations affect their field placement?
Some countries require a particular vaccination for entry into the country, so a missionary who declines that vaccine without a medical exemption could not live in that country. In addition, many developing nations are rife with vaccine-preventable diseases. Unvaccinated missionaries and MKs would be at increased risk for contracting such a disease. Where applicable, these risks will be weighed and discussed by the missionary and the missionary’s supervisors, our medical director, and the missionary’s own sending church.
6. What advice does ABWE offer about vaccinations?
We offer informational resources on vaccinations on request and for those who waive vaccinations. Our medical director is always available for questions.
7. What is the difference between a medical exemption and a philosophical waiver?
A medical exemption is for someone who has experienced a significant adverse effect or an allergic reaction to a particular vaccine and must include physician documentation. A philosophical waiver represents a personal choice by an individual or by parents for their children, and can apply to one specific vaccine or more vaccines.
8. When can missionaries get a waiver?
Current missionaries may request a waiver during the regular medical clearance process, or may simply contact the medical director at any time. New missionaries have an opportunity to request a waiver during the hiring process.
9. What is the purpose of the waiver?
ABWE utilizes waivers because we value both personal choice and clarity regarding legal responsibility. In addition, by keeping such critical health information on file, we are better equipped to help our missionaries in the event of illness or medical emergency.
10. Why is the sending church required to sign the waiver?
ABWE partners with the local church in sending missionaries. We affirm the sending church and its pastors in their calling to care for missionaries and guide them in decision making. By signing the waiver, the pastor does not make any medical decisions for any missionary but simply acknowledges the church’s awareness of the missionary’s personal choices.