Make vaccinations mandatory, Academy of Medicine Malaysia tells Health Ministry after polio returns

Dr Rosmawati suggested free vaccines for all children, including non-citizens. — Reuters pic
Dr Rosmawati suggested free vaccines for all children, including non-citizens. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — The Academy of Medicine Malaysia wants the Health Ministry to make vaccinations mandatory, adding that sanctions should be imposed for unreasonable non-compliance.

The academy’s call follows the infection of a three-month-old infant in Tuaran, Sabah, which was reported on December 8.

“This is the first case of polio in Malaysia since 1992, which raises our concerns about the state of immunisation in Malaysia,” said Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, master of the academy in a statement early this morning.

She suggested free vaccines for all children, including non-citizens without criminalising them.

Malaysia’s last reported case of polio was in 1992. The country was declared polio-free in 2000.

Both the World Health Organisation and Unicef recently announced a three-month-old boy in Tuaran has a rare strain called circulating vaccine-derived polio (cVDPV) Type 1, which is the same as the one spreading in the Philippines since September, and which only occurs when a population is seriously under-immunised.

Tuaran has several settlements of Filipino immigrants, some of whom have settled in Sabah since the 1970s.

Dr Rosmawati noted that vaccination is currently only recommended but not mandated in Malaysia.

She also noted that in recent years, “vaccine hesitancy” has been trending as anti-innoculation activists gain momentum, disrupting the authorities’ efforts towards safeguarding the population’s protection from preventable diseases through hed immunisation.

“We at the academy are concerned that the wilful misinformation and irresponsible behaviour of groups that are against childhood vaccinations affect not only their own children, but also other young Malaysians.

“We believe that more assertive measures are needed to ensure adequate vaccination rates in Malaysia, including a stronger counter-misinformation campaign against anti-vaccination campaigners and consideration for mandatory vaccination programmes,” she said.  

Dr Rosmawati also urged the other ministries to develop permanent solutions to Malaysia’s influx of immigrants and undocumented people, pointing out the larger scale health risk to the country if these groups were excluded from the public health services.

“These durable solutions must consider the rights and duties of the non-citizens, and Malaysia’s rights and duties under international laws and norms.

“These durable solutions can begin with health and vaccine-preventable diseases,” she said.

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