Vaccinate children vs measles and diphtheria, Malaysian doctors urge

February 27, 2019

Reports of recent diphtheria cases in the Malaysia, and the spate of measles cases in its neighbouring  country,  the Philippines,  and has prompted Malaysian doctors to call for urgent vaccination against these two diseases for all Malaysian children.

The Health Ministry has reported that previous misinformation about vaccination led to a sharp increase in the number of vaccine-preventable diseases – cases of measles rose from 125 in 2013 to 1,467 last year due to a lack of immunisation. There have been attempts to make vaccination compulsory for preschoolers, but the initiatives met with resistance.

Currently, Malaysian children do not need to have received immunisation before being allowed schooling, as most schools will check themselves. However, Asia Pacific Pediatric Association Secretary-General Datuk Dr Zulkifli has said that diphtheria and measles vaccination at least, should be made compulsory prior to enrollment in schools, kindergartens or nurseries to protect all children.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim has said that there must be adequate counselling in a way that is easily understood by the lay public, in order for vaccination to be made compulsory.

Dr Mohamed Namazie has claimed that there would be objections on various grounds from “anti-vaxxers”, explaining that in countries with legislation for compulsory immunisation, such as Belgium and France, unvaccinated children are not allowed in school at all.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has said that such a policy had been considered, but will again be difficult to impose, especially when countered with religious beliefs.

In the meantime, the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) provides free vaccinations for children at all government clinics for the 12 major childhood diseases, including measles.

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