KUCHING: Parents in Sarawak should remain vigilant about vaccinating their children against Japanese encephalitis (JE), although the number of cases has decreased after compulsory vaccination was introduced nearly 20 years ago.
The Health Ministry's vector-borne diseases head Dr Rose Nani Mudin said JE incidence in Sarawak dropped from 2.6 to 0.31 per 100,000 population since the vaccine was made compulsory under the national immunisation programme in 2001.
She said 11 cases were reported in the state last year, compared to a high of 55 cases in 1999, which led to the immunisation programme.
"The incidence has reduced remarkably, but when the cases become low, people tend to think that there is no (more) JE and there is no need to be vaccinated.
"But that is the wrong perception. Parents must understand that the number of cases reduced because of vaccination. The disease is still around and there is still a risk of getting infected," she told a media dialogue here on Tuesday (Jan 7).
Dr Rose Nani said vaccination must be taken seriously by parents and the community at large because JE was a serious disease which could affect survivors for the rest of their lives.
She said studies showed that the fatality rate could reach 30% while up to 30% of survivors could develop permanent neurological disabilities.
Sarawak General Hospital senior consultant paediatrician Dr Ooi Mong How said vaccination was the most effective way to prevent JE, which is transmitted by the Culex mosquito.
"We have a very effective vaccine for children and adults. Our experience in the last 19 years has shown how effective the vaccine is," he said.
Dr Ooi added that it was important to follow the recommended schedule for the vaccination to be effective.
"For children, the Health Ministry's recommended schedule is two doses, one at nine months old and the second at 21 months old.
"For adults, only one dose is needed. So it's very easy and convenient," he said.
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