Autism: Ministry tells parents to follow vaccine schedule

Dr-Lokman-Hakim-Sulaiman

PETALING JAYA: To appease fears that a double vaccine shot given to children aged 18 months may lead to a child becoming autistic, the Health Ministry has ordered government clinics and hospitals to stick to the National Immunisation Schedule.

Noting that some children are given two vaccine shots on the same day, Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said, according to the schedule, immunisation shots were to be given one at a time, The Star reported today.

“Giving two jabs on the same day only happens when the immunisation schedule is breached,” he was quoted as saying, adding that parents must keep to the timing that they had been given for their child’s immunisation shots.

Lokman advised parents who may have missed a scheduled vaccination to discuss the rescheduling with the hospital or clinic staff and ensure that the vaccinations are still done one at a time, and not both done on the same day.

Under the healthcare system in Malaysia, the immunisation schedule for 18-month old children covers a single shot of five-in-one vaccine DTaP-Hib/IPV (difteria, tetanus, pertusis, hemophillus influenza B and Polio) and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

Lokman reiterated however, that this did not mean that a double vaccination on the same day had anything to do with a child becoming autistic.

“There is no scientific evidence linking autism to MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

“The five-in-one vaccine DTaP-Hib/IPV is also given in a single jab and it is the same vaccine given at the age of two months, three months and five months.

“Therefore, there is no association between the vaccines given on the same day to a child at the age of 18 months and autism,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.

Quoting a study spanning eight years in Yokohama, Japan, Lokman said out of 31,426 children, the ratio of children with autism remained the same despite a drop in the MMR immunisation rate.

“The study also showed a significant increase in the number of autism cases occurring after 1993,” The Star quoted Lokman as saying on the study that was carried out between 1988 and 1996.

He added that the Health Ministry had also conducted a study on the prevalence of autism cases in the country.

“In Malaysia, a study conducted in five districts between 2005 and 2006 showed there were two cases of autism for every 1,000 children aged between 18 months and three years.

“This is within the global range of one to six cases among every 1,000 children,” Lokman said, according to The Star, adding that the Health Ministry had only started collating specific data on autism from 2004.

“Within 12 years, from between 2004 and 2015, we have identified 1,808 autism cases involving children below the age of seven.”

Referring to the history associating autism with vaccinations of young children, Lokman said the link was made in a 1998 study by Dr Andrew Wakefield, which was published in the Lancet medical journal.

In 2004, Lanced retracted its interpretation of the Wakefield report and six years later retracted the entire report, saying that there was insufficient data to support the theory as the doctor had only used 12 children for his study.

The Star spoke to Lokman, following claims by a group of parents who claimed that their children became autistic after being given the two vaccinations – MMR and DTaP-Hib/IPV – on the same day.

Persama (Pertubuhan Sayang Malaysia) Together For Autism founder Thila Laxshman told The Star that many parents spoke of seeing their child react the same way after getting two injections of vaccines on the same day.

“The children had fever and subsequently stopped talking, lost eye contact, had difficulty sleeping at night and threw tantrums to the point of meltdown.

“Our children were born normal but developed brain development disorders after the injections,” she was quoted as saying by The Star.