PETALING JAYA: Children not immunised against measles has led to a 340% leap in the number of infections within the first week of this month.
There were 873 cases reported in that week compared to the 197 recorded in the corresponding period last year, an increase of 676.
Health Department director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah attributed the increase to the fact that children were not immunised against the disease.
Most of the cases involved private homes (63.6%) followed by institutions (28.8%) and community (7.6%).
“Last year, there were 1,318 cases of measles with two deaths. There has not been any death this year,” he said in a posting on his Facebook page yesterday.
Dr Noor Hisham said 66 outbreaks were reported during the first week of June, a five-fold increase compared to the same period last year.
Immunisation against measles are given to children when they are between nine and 12 months under the national immunisation programme.
Previous reports stated that an increasing number of parents are not immunising their children over fears that the vaccines are not halal.
Kedah has the highest number of rejection cases in the country.
This was despite a declaration by the National Fatwa Council that the vaccines are halal.
On Saturday, Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said they would discuss with their counterparts in the Health Ministry about mandatory vaccinations for students nationwide.
This was important to protect their health, he said.
His comments came about following the death of a seven-year-old girl who died from diphtheria bacterial infection in Malacca.
In Kedah, a two-year-old toddler has also died, believed to be from the same illness.
Last Wednesday, the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia said the resurgence of infectious diseases such as diphtheria, which had virtually disappeared in Malaysia, was due to the reluctance of some parents to vaccinate their children.
“Factors identified for this reluctance to vaccinate include misinformation, untruths and myths found on the Internet and social media,” said association president Prof Datuk Dr Abd Rahim Mohamad.
In his statement, he said that the rejection of vaccination also stemmed from “adopting pseudo-religious arguments about the status of vaccines by a few religious groups and individuals who do not have any expertise in science and the complexities of medicine”.
He urged muftis and religious scholars to provide correct information about immunisation and to “steer away from myths, fiction and conspiracy theories”.
The Malaysian Medical Association said last week that Malaysia had had good infant immunisation coverage for infants for the past three decades.
“With regret, we note that immunisation coverage of our infants has been hampered by pockets of population who either refuse immunisation or may have been missed,” said its president Dr John Chew Chee Ming.