PETALING JAYA: A new vaccination schedule will be introduced for children at all government-run health clinics under the National Immunisation Programme, says the Health Ministry.
In a statement yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the change was a result of the ministry switching to a six-in-one combination vaccine from the current five-in-one vaccine.
Combination vaccines merge two or more vaccines so that the child undergoes a minimum amount of shots.
The existing five-in-one vaccine is generically known as the pentavalent DTaP-IPV-Hib, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
Hib is a bacteria that can cause severe pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases almost exclusively in children aged less than five years.
Hib is transmitted through the respiratory tract from infected to susceptible individuals.
The six-in-one combination vaccine will protect children against the five diseases as well as Hepatitis B (HepB).
Dr Noor Hisham said the switch to the DTaP-IPV-HepB-Hib vaccine would take place in stages, beginning this month, depending on availability.
The previous five-in-one combo has been in use since 2008 in eight states before it was expanded nationwide in 2010.
It was administered in three doses, at the ages of two months, three months and five months, as well as a booster shot at 18 months.
On the other hand, the HepB vaccine has been in use since 1989, where it is administered to a child at birth, a month later and at six months.
Dr Noor Hisham said with the new vaccination schedule, a child only needs to undergo five sessions, down from seven.
“With this reduction, it is easier for parents to ensure their children are given the vaccination injections according to the immunisation schedule, ” he added.
“As much as four doses will be administered to each child, at the age of two months, three months, five months and 18 months, while the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given after birth will continue.
“The previous Hepatitis B vaccine (doses) given at the first and sixth months are no longer required as it is already inside the six-in-one vaccine, ” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham also assured the track record of the six-in-one vaccine was good based on experience elsewhere, as well as those used in the private healthcare setting here.
“Observations made by WHO (World Health Organisation) showed that up to Oct 20,49 countries have changed to the hexavalent DTaP-IPV-HepB-Hib vaccine in their respective national immunisation programmes.
“While it has been used at private medical facilities here since 2013 and has been proven to be safe, its use under the National Immunisation Programme at Health Ministry facilities is new.
“As such, the ministry will observe to see whether there will be any adverse events following immunisation on every child after each dosage.
“For this purpose, parents should report any adverse effects experienced by their child to medical officers after each injection by returning the reporting form, even if the effect is minor, such as a red spot at the injection site, ” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham added that parents could also report the matter to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency via npra.gov.my.
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