Minister blames anti-vax groups for lack of immunisation coverage

KUALA LUMPUR: Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad today called the anti-vaccination movement a major barrier to achieving full immunisation coverage among children in Malaysia.

“When we can’t achieve 95% immunisation coverage, we are afraid that those who are not vaccinated will cause an outbreak like the recent Johor case,” he said after the 26th Food and Oil committee conference today.

He was referring to the two-year-old boy in Johor Bahru who died of diphtheria last week.

Four out of five children who died of the preventable disease last year had not been vaccinated by parents, mainly due to religious reasons.

Dzulkefly said it was difficult to implement compulsory vaccination when parties disagreed and used their rights as an argument to remain unvaccinated.

“It is difficult when they (the anti-vaccination group) influence others,” he added.

He gave the example of the Philippines, which is seeing an outbreak of measles due to lack of vaccination.

“Cases of the measles in the Philippines rose from 791 to 5,120. That’s a 700% increase, and there have been 25 deaths,” he said.

He said he would hold discussions with experts and NGOs on the matter, adding that it would be brought to the Cabinet this week.

He added that the ministry would seek to educate people on the importance of vaccination instead of punishing them.

“We work together with the Islamic religious department, so there won’t be those who say vaccination is against Islamic laws,” he said.