A real investment in public health ― Chan Li Jin

OCTOBER 12 ― It was 5.37pm when the finance minister announced in the 2020 Budget that RM60 million had been allocated for the inclusion of the Pneumococcal vaccine to be included into the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).

While it mattered little to the masses who were more focused on whether toll rates or SST will be abolished, that moment in time marked the end of a 15-year struggle for paediatricians and parents who have been demanding for better health protection for all children.

On behalf of all Malaysians, we would like to thank the government for their gift of health!

Having the pneumococcal vaccine included into the NIP means making it available to all children FOR FREE at the government clinics. Now only some families can afford it at private clinics/hospitals, at RM300+ per jab,and over RM1000 for the full course.

Once the pneumococcal vaccine is available to all children, we can expect these cumulative benefits over the next five years:

Reduction in Invasive Pneumococcus Disease (IPD) cases: 1,920

Reduction in pneumonia cases: 58,677

Reduction in cases of otitis media (middle ear infection): 322,228

That’s not all. A recent study has shown that the government stands to reduce direct and indirect savings in medical costs amounting to US$119.3 million (RM499.4 million) over five years.

Children will have fewer sick days, which mean they will have less interruption in education, and increased productivity among parents when they don’t have to take leave to care for ill children.

And don’t forget that illness is a real financial burden to families. Having one sick child means parents have to skip work, and spend more on transport and food when their daily routine is disrupted. These will affect the overall productivity of the country.

Lastly, the pneumococcal vaccine will protect the vulnerable (such as children with disabilities and those who cannot be vaccinated), as well as the elderly population, with pneumonia being the main cause of death among Malaysians aged above 60.

We thank the honorable Minister of Health for making this his legacy, and fulfilling the election promise of GE14.

Health is the biggest wealth, without which none of the other Budget allocations can be utlised. If we’re serious about providing equality for all, healthcare is where it must begin.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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