Since the mid-1950s, this slip of paper has come to mark a rite of passage for Primary Six schoolchildren in Singapore, as is the resultant mark on their arm. The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination is meant to provide immunisation against tuberculosis meningitis among children.
The BCG vaccination was first introduced in Singapore in 1957, but was met with initial reservations within the medical community. In 1959, Dr N. C. Sen Gupta, Medical Director of Singapore’s Anti-Tuberculosis Association, wrote to The Straits Times to express his concern should the BCG vaccination be made compulsory, since the medical research behind the BCG was fairly new at the time. However, the efficacy of BCG vaccinations soon allayed these concerns.
In the past, children were required to receive BCG injections twice: once at the infant stage, with a revaccination done by health officials in schools about 12 years later. However, since 2001, BCG revaccination has been phased out by the Ministry of Health.