FEBRUARY 26 — I take note of the statement by the deputy health minister published in the media on February 24, 2019 that states “vaccination given to children nine months old and above is now only at 89 per cent, short of the target 95 per cent in order to control any outbreaks.”
There is arguably no single preventive health intervention more cost effective than immunisation. Expanding access to immunisation is crucial to prevent suffering and death associated with infectious diseases and enable national development like education and economic progress to take place.
According to the WHO, two to three million deaths are prevented by vaccination every year and an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves.
Vaccines are necessary alongside good hygiene, sanitation, clean water and nutrition in the fight against infectious diseases. The optimum rate of immunisation or “herd immunity” must be achieved to prevent the return of vaccine-preventable diseases
Vaccinations are safe. Every licensed vaccine is vigorously tested across multiple phases of trials before it is approved for use and regularly re-assessed once it is on the market. The scientific communities are constantly monitoring information from several sources for any sign that a vaccine may cause an adverse event.
Most vaccine reactions are usually minor and temporary. In the rare event a serious side effect is reported, it is immediately investigated. It is far more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine.
An “adverse event” is any health problems that happen after a shot of vaccine, which might be pure coincidence or caused by a vaccine.
A side effect is any health problems shown by studies to be caused by a vaccine, they are usually minor and transient.
It is the business of everyone in stopping vaccine-preventable diseases.
Health care professionals, communities, politicians, regulatory authorities, parents, teachers and schools must all step up to enhance vaccine promotion and break the barriers of myths and misinformation.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Committee on Adolescent Health in its 2017 opinion paper, for example, states that obstetricians and gynaecologists including all healthcare workers have an important role to educate parents on the importance of vaccination for their male and female children.
Every parent must understand the benefits of vaccination and the need to protect their children.
It is time now that we all embrace solid scientific facts about the benefits and safety of vaccination rather than dabble in dangerous half-truths and rumors that may cause permanent disability or death.
We must all join in this noble effort in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases and ensuring that every child’s health and future is protected.
* Dr John Teo is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Kota Kinabalu
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.