PETALING JAYA: Parents are increasingly giving vaccination a miss for their kids. Doctors, however, are far from pleased with the trend. They point to the rising risk of children getting stricken with preventable diseases.
Some feel that this risk has been heightened by the presence of many migrant workers in the country whose vaccination status is not known.
Malaysian Paediatric Association subcommittee chairman for immunisation Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail said there was increasing refusal and hesitancy to accept childhood vaccination, especially among the more educated parents.
He said these children did not only face the risk of suffering diseases but could face complications and other long term consequences from them.
Dr Zulkifli cited the case of an eight-month-old baby who had 250ml of fluid drained out from the left of his chest and was warded in intensive care unit for two weeks because his parents did not want the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
The infant had suffered from cough for one month and fever and breathlessness for a few days when admitted to hospital. Chest X-rays showed pneumonia with fluid in his chest, he said.
“The hospital bill was 18 times the cost of the total course of the vaccine, not including the risk of hospital-acquired infection, pain of IV drips and the chest drain and psychological trauma,” he said.
In another case, a one-year-old boy was never given the primary vaccines because his grandmother was against it.
He had been coughing for three months and did not get well despite being given traditional remedies.
Dr Zulkifli said tests found the bacteria which causes pertussis or whooping cough present.
He said the boy need not have coughed for so long if he had taken the DTaP vaccine given at ages two, three and five months with a booster at 18 months.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the number of parents refusing vaccination was rising with families with children aged below two, increasing from 470 cases in 2013 to 1,292 cases last year. However, the numbers should be more because statistics collected did not include private health clinics, he said.
Among reasons for vaccination refusal were doubts over the safety of vaccine content, the belief that homeopathy medication and traditional remedies should not be mixed with modern medicine, and the halal concern.
Hospital Kuala Lumpur consultant neonatologist Dr Irene Cheah said in the process of avoiding vaccination, some parents also reject vitamin K injections. As a result, one baby died from bleeding in the brain and another suffered brain damage a few months ago, she said.
The injection is given at birth to prevent bleeding in the brain or gut which could be life threatening or lead to delayed development such as cerebral palsy, she said.