Govt backbencher moots criminal penalties against anti-vaxxers

Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government is pushing for mandatory vaccination in public schools after a diphtheria outbreak in Johor caused public uproar. — Reuters pic
Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government is pushing for mandatory vaccination in public schools after a diphtheria outbreak in Johor caused public uproar. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — The government should consider Singapore’s approach to dealing with parents who refuse to immunise their children, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii suggested today.

The medical doctor, who is for mandatory vaccinations, threw his support behind imposing criminal penalties against those who reject vaccinations.

“Though I don’t deny that there may be other reasons, but the anti-vaccination movement is one main reason for the existence and increase in contagious diseases, though it can be prevented.

“Therefore, I urge the government to amend the current laws to introduce mandatory vaccination laws, especially for MMR and diphtheria and criminal liabilities towards parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, especially if it causes death and harms other children,” Dr Yii said.

He blamed parental ignorance for exposing their children and others to harm.

“Maybe we can view another model, like in Singapore, whereby parents are fined if they don’t vaccinate their children. Through this model, the children are not barred from school; however, parents have to pay a fine, to encourage them to vaccinate,” Dr Yii added.

He said that the mandatory vaccination laws should not be formulated solely with the intention to punish, but as a bid to create awareness and educate parents on the importance of vaccination, while debunking myths linked to vaccines.

PAS Kuala Terengganu MP Ahmad Amzad Hashim also supported Dr Yii’s argument, lamenting that anti-vaccination is prevalent among the Muslim community.

“I feel that if it’s possible, maybe Jakim or some agencies can give their clear views to Muslims with regards to this vaccination issue,” Ahmad said, referring to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government is pushing for mandatory vaccination in public schools after a diphtheria outbreak in Johor caused public uproar.

This comes after Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government is studying the possibility of allowing only children who have received immunisation to enrol in school.

A two-year-old boy died while five others who were in contact with him contracted the disease.

Vaccination for children is currently voluntary.

Dzulkefly said new legislation is needed to make vaccination mandatory.

Anti-vaccination parents have strongly opposed the idea.

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