‘Blame polio outbreak on slow health officials, not politicians’

A health officer pastes a poster on polio at a sundry shop in Kampung Damat in Sabah, where Malaysia’s first polio case in three decades was reported recently.

PETALING JAYA: Health officials in Sabah missed the opportunity to carry out mass vaccinations when a polio case was discovered late last year, according to a pathologist here.

Dr Manimalar Selvi Naicker, a pathologist and university lecturer, said the blame should be pinned on the Sabah health authorities more than politicians.

“While it is easy to blame politicians for not providing the money to vaccinate all resident children regardless of their residency or nationality status, the truth perhaps lies elsewhere.

“The doctors involved in Sabah should have analysed and understood the threat better to push the mass vaccination agenda through when the window of opportunity existed.

“The Sabah health authorities simply did not understand the science well enough to galvanise the politicians into action,” she told FMT.

Manimalar said it was understandable that politicians had other urgent matters to attend to, stressing that it was the responsibility of doctors to communicate to lawmakers the magnitude of such threats.

She said there could be an issue in how doctors were educated on vaccine sciences, adding that the two new cases in Sabah could mean there were more to be discovered.

Manimalar said the cases were in very different geographical locations.

“Doctors are not always trained to understand the underlying principles of infection and vaccination in its entirety. Vaccines are not magic bullets.”

She said parents would have many questions on the safety and efficacy of vaccines which were valid, adding that vaccines do come with a minor risk of adverse effects.

“Doctors have to have sufficient knowledge to answer these questions and to induce parents to invest in vaccination for the safety and well-being of their young children,” she said.