KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Vaccination for all newborns may be made compulsory soon, following the return of preventable diseases such as tuberculosis (TB).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad told Parliament during Question Time today that the government is considering the move due to the increasing number of Malaysian parents rejecting immunisation, as well as the spread of TB among foreign workers in the country.
“In general, vaccine preventable diseases such as TB are making a comeback, particularly because lately there are pockets of immunisation or vaccine hesitant groups. It is critical that we look into this.
“Even though it is not compulsory, we are considering if we should finally make the National Immunisation Programme compulsory. We have seen these vaccine-preventable diseases making a comeback in neighbouring countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and our own country.
“We have detected diseases such as measles and diphtheria also making a comeback,” said Dzulkefly in his reply to backbencher Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul, who asked if BCG shots — which are given to prevent TB — will be made compulsory for all newborns.
He also welcomed the suggestion by Kuala Kangsar MP Datin Mastura Mohd Yazid, who had asked if the Health Ministry conducted surprise spot checks or scheduled inspections at construction sites employing foreign workers.
She had pointed out that foreign workers living at construction site hostels are exposed to great health risks due to their makeshift accommodation and the lack of access to immediate medical facilities.
The ministry, Dzulkefly said, will take her suggestion into its consideration.
Earlier, the minister said certain communicable diseases such as TB and HIV, have an incubation period and that the Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination (FOMEMA) checks might have missed some of the infected foreign workers as their results register a false negative.
The minister also agreed to and will consider a suggestion by Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar regarding more regular inspections in prison.
The Sarawak lawmaker had quoted a 2015 study by Universiti Malaya’s Datuk Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, who found that prisons make a hotbed breeding ground for infectious diseases.
Dzulkefly admitted that prisons lack the proper medical resources despite stationing medical officers at the facilities.