Deputy health DG: Vaccination could become law within a year

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PETALING JAYA — The proposal to make vaccination mandatory could become part of the law within a year if the route taken is to add it to existing health regulations, deputy health director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said yesterday.

He said it may take longer if the matter had to be approved by Parliament.

He said it could not be ascertained at this point which option the ministry and other related ministries would pursue.

“If all that is needed is an addition to regulations, then it could be done in a year.”

Dr Jeyaindran said it was likely the proposal could be incorporated into the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, that relates to the spread of diseases.

“But it is not that easy to turn this proposal into law. There are several steps that need to be adhered to, including getting the views of stakeholders to get them on board,” he added.

Stakeholders included doctors in the Health Ministry, the Malaysian Medical Association and associations representing paediatricians, religious communities and parents’ groups and those representing the community at large.

His comments come in the wake of a statement by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the ministry planned to make vaccination compulsory.

Dr Hilmi had said on Friday the ministry would hold discussions with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Department of Islamic Development to iron out the process of making it mandatory.

Dr Jeyaindran said the ministry had an ongoing campaign to educate parents on the benefits of vaccination, especially to protect children against measles and diptheria

He said the ministry was concerned about the rise in the number of parents who declined vaccination for children on religious or health grounds.

He said some refused as they claimed it was against their religious beliefs or were worried over its halal status, while others believed it could be detrimental to childrens’ health.

Dr Jeyaindran said the refusal to allow vaccinations would definitely reduce “herd immunity” in the community where there would be an increased incidence of diseases like measles due to more people being non-resistant to the disease.

Herd immunity is a general resistance to a pathogen in a population based on immunity to it acquired by a large proportion of members over time.

“It is important to build herd immunity in a community so that everyone benefits from general vaccination of children. If parents refuse, it may reduce immunity among children,” he added.

Dr Jeyaindran said measles is not a fatal disease but may lead to complications over time, with possible injury to
the brain.

“This is why we stress the need to immunise children against measles, so that they grow into healthy adults and not become victims of the complications that may arise later,” he said.

Meanwhile, it is understood that there is also talk in some circles of disallowing children who were not vaccinated from registering in primary schools.

Dr Jeyaindran said this should not be considered as it meant penalising children for the “sins” of their parents.

It has been reported that nearly 1,500 people nationwide refused vaccination, with nearly 500 as of March.

Two children died of diphtheria last week, prompting Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan to announce plans to introduce mandatory vaccination for students.

The Health Ministry has recommended vaccination for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio, mumps, measles and rubella, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus.