PETALING JAYA: Mandatory laws are not the best way to ensure that parents vaccinate their children, says Unicef Malaysia representative Marianne Clark-Hattingh.
“The government of Malaysia is right in giving importance to vaccination of all children. However, mandatory laws are not the best way to do this.
“Unicef’s experience shows that there is little evidence to show that mandatory laws improve vaccination coverage,” she said in a statement issued Friday (March 1).
Clark-Hattingh’s remarks came a day after the Health Ministry formed a task force to study proposals and calls to make vaccination compulsory.
The task force was set up following the death of a two-year-old boy from diphtheria in Johor Bahru last week. The boy wasn’t immunised.
According to Clark-Hattingh, there are better and more effective approaches to foster and sustain demands for immunisation.
She said it was crucial to understand why parents were reluctant to vaccinate and subsequently guide the parents with the right information and targeted campaigns.
“There is also a need to constantly engage healthcare providers for improved communication with clients,” she added.
Clark-Hattingh expressed concern over the re-emergence of measles and diphtheria, and the escalating number of parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children.
“No child should be blamed for not being vaccinated. Preventing an unvaccinated child from going to school is a violation of their right to access education.”
She said that the government must consider the consequences of not allowing unvaccinated children to school on their overall well-being.
“Vaccinating every child is critical. Not vaccinating your child puts others at risk,” she added.
Clark-Hattingh said a child’s best interest is protected when parents and caregivers vaccinate them based on informed decisions or are prompted by non-coercive measures and interventions.
She also said that health workers at both public and private facilities should continue their efforts to ensure that every child is vaccinated.
“Malaysia, as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is equally mandated to give children the best healthcare and education possible,” she added.