KUALA LUMPUR – Vaccination will not be made mandatory and the Health Ministry will continue to use education to encourage it, said minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
“Very few countries make vaccination mandatory. As a nation, we cannot enforce everything by law,” he said, comparing it to anti-smoking education in favour of banning cigarettes.
He was responding to a statement by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the ministry plans to make vaccination compulsory in the wake of several child deaths caused by diphtheria.
Dr Subramaniam said there is strong cooperation between the health and education ministries through their school health services to ensure children are being vaccinated.
He identified three “problem groups”, which included the anti-vaccine movement, the hardcore poor and migrants.
“So-called educated people who are anti-vaccine say it is due to religious objection or worry of the side effects,” he said during a press conference at SJK(T) Ampang, here, Sunday.
Countering their assumptions, he said approved vaccines are all “categorically safe” and have also been declared halal by the National Fatwa Committee.
He admitted it is a sensitive issue and ultimately in the hands of the child’s parents or guardians.
“This makes me sad. They (parents and guardians) think it’s a decision for themselves but it actually affects society as a whole. They must realise that they don’t live on an island,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam said the other two groups – the hardcore poor and migrants – are harder to reach out to because their health records are either unavailable or not up to date.
The ministry has also been working with its Philippines counterpart for over a year to address the issue of unvaccinated migrants in Sabah.
As of June 29, the ministry recorded five deaths out of 13 confirmed diphtheria cases nationwide: three cases with one death in Malacca, six cases with one death in Kedah, and four cases with three deaths in Sabah. – The Star Online