Anti-vaccine groups on the rise

Mothers with young children listening to the public forum.

IT IS the role of parents to protect their children from illness, injuries, and anything that can endanger their lives.

Perak Health Department Director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said parents should do everything in their ability to protect their children.

Dr Juita said there are medications for most illness, and immunisation can prevent other dangerous diseases.

“Therefore it is very important for parents to protect their children, and one way to do this is by vaccinating them against communicable diseases.

“The government’s immunisation programme has been implemented since the 1950s, and since then, there has been a lot of improvements made.

“Currently, under the National Immunisation Programme, the ministry provides 12 halal vaccinations to prevent diseases like diphtheria, measles, pertussis, tuberculosis and polio,” she told a crowd during the closing of the department’s public forum on immunisation held at Mydin Meru Raya last Sunday.

Dr Juita giving her speech at the launching ceremony of the public forum on immunisation in Ipoh.  — Photos: SAIFUL BAHRI/The Star
Dr Juita giving her speech at the launching ceremony of the public forum on immunisation in Ipoh. — Photos: SAIFUL BAHRI/The Star

Themed “ Sayangi Saya, Lindungi Saya dan Imunisasikan Saya” (Love Me, Protect Me and Immunise Me”), four panelist explained to the crowd the importance of vaccination and all its aspects.

The panelist included the department’s Public Health Medical Specialist Dr Adliah Mohamed Soid, Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital Paediatric Department Head and Senior Consultant Paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh, Malaysia Homeopathy Association Council President Zainul Azmi Ahmad, and Perak State Fatwa Committee Member Asad Awang.

Dr Juita added that the immunisation programme has proven to be effective, citing example of diseases like small pox that have been eradicated worldwide, with the last case detected in 1977.

However, in Malaysia, she said, at least three types of preventable diseases – diphtheria, pertussis, and measles – have increased in the last 10 years, with some cases resulting in death.

She said, in Perak there were nine cases of pertussis reported until August this year, 15 cases of measles, and one case of diphtheria reported recently.

“The increase is due to some parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, and in Perak itself there has been a significant increase of these anti-vaccine groups.

“The most common reasons given are doubts of the halal status and side effects. They trust alternative medicine more, and last but not least, they believe what the anti-vaccine groups have got to say,” she added.

Dr Juita added that to provide a true picture of immunisation, awareness is very often created through the mass media, during the Friday sermons, as well as handing out of pamphlets about the importance of immunisation.

Dr Amar said in the 1980s he had seen many children suffering from diseases such as diphtheria, meningitis, measles and pertussis, and many had lost their lives.

He said while many parents may not realise it, it is vital to boost the immunity of babies and young children through vaccinations.

“I am not saying that immunisation will 100% work on everybody, because between 2% and 5% will not respond to it.

“But if between 95% and 98% of children are immunised, then those who don’t response to immunisation will be protected from the diseases as well.

“Most of the time the side effects of vaccinations are mild, but by not vaccinating your children, the consequences of the communicable diseases is far worse,” he added

Malaysia Homeopathy Association Council President Zainul Azmi Ahmad said there is no such thing as homeopathy vaccination.

He said homeopathy is an alternative treatment and the medication provided can in no way replace the vaccinations provided by the Health Ministry.

Zainul said medical conditions that require surgery, acute conditions, as well as the prevention of contagious diseases, cannot be treated by a homeopath.

“There is no medication or product under homeopathy which is labelled as a vaccine, and if a homeopath insists there is such a vaccination, it is better to check out the background, and the qualification of that homeopath.

“Even in India where homeopathy is advanced, they have never claimed to have vaccinations.

“The anti-vaccine groups have their own rights not to vaccinate their children, but they don’t have the right to infect other people,” he said.

Asad said while there are people who have raised concerns about vaccinating their children, claming it does not fulfil Islamic tenets, it is crucial for children and babies to get the required vaccinations, because if they are not immunised and contract diseases, they could either die or suffer from livelong disability.

“In Islam the law must be obeyed, on condition that the vaccine is halal. If there is no halal vaccine at the time as it contains forbidden substances, it can still be taken.

“Immunisation is permissible as it is a matter of life and death, and when no other medication from a halal source can be found, drugs from sources that are generally termed forbidden are permissible,” he added.

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