KUALA LUMPUR: Vaccination will not be made compulsory and the Health Ministry will continue to use education to encourage immunisation, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
“Very few countries make vaccination mandatory. As a nation, we cannot enforce everything by law,” he said, comparing it to anti-smoking education in favour of banning cigarettes.
He was responding to a statement by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the ministry planned to make vaccination compulsory in the wake of several child deaths from diphtheria.
Dr Subramaniam said there was strong co-operation between the Health and Education ministries through their school health services to ensure children were being vaccinated. He identified three “problem groups” which included the anti-vaccine movement, hardcore poor and migrants.
“These so called educated people are anti-vaccine saying it is due to religious objection or worrying about its side effects,” he said, during a press conference at SJK(T) Ampang, here.
Countering their assumptions, he said approved vaccines were all “categorically safe” and had also been declared halal by the National Fatwa Committee.
He admitted it was a sensitive issue and ultimately in the hands of the child’s guardians.
“This makes me sad, they think it’s a decision for themselves but it actually affects society as a whole. They must realise they don’t live on an island alone,” he said.
Dr Subramaniam said the other two groups – hardcore poor and migrants – were harder to reach out to because their health records were either not updated or not available at all.
The Health Ministry has been working with its Filipino counterpart for over a year to address the issue of unvaccinated migrants in Sabah.
As of June 29, the ministry recorded five deaths out of 13 confirmed diphtheria cases nationwide.
Of the 13 cases, three cases with one death were in Malacca, six cases with one death were in Kedah, and four cases with three deaths were in Sabah.