KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — A health care workers’ group proposed travel bans on families with unvaccinated children and for them to pay for medical services in full without government subsidies.
The Medical Mythbusters Malaysia also said it will present its petition for mandatory childhood vaccines with 119,747 signatures at the time of writing to Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad at the Malaysian Medical Council here this morning.
“What we wanted to achieve with this petition is to raise awareness on the dangers of vaccine hesitancy on public health,” Medical Mythbusters Malaysia president and co-founder Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris told CodeBlue.
“MOH (Ministry of Health) should know that there is tremendous support on the ground with regards to the current vaccination program.
“The government i.e. the relevant ministries should discuss and engage with multi-agencies and NGOs to come up with a strong policy,” he added.
Dr Ahmad Firdaus said his organisation may also submit their petition to Education Minister Maszlee Malik and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
The government is currently mulling making childhood immunisation compulsory, amid the rise in preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria, and a low measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination rate of 89 per cent, below the required 95 per cent for herd immunity.
Besides overseas travel bans and retraction of health subsidies for parents who do not vaccinate their child, Medical Mythbusters Malaysia also proposed mandatory vaccination for government school.
“If the child vaccination is not complete, parents are to complete it or to send them to private school or home school with proper mechanism to monitor them, so that their education is still not jeopardised,” Medical Mythbusters Malaysia exco on vaccination promotion strategy Dr Amirul Amzar Megat Hashim told CodeBlue.
He also suggested reimbursement of income tax for parents who fully vaccinated their child, plus extras for optional paid vaccines.
Dr Amirul Amzar explained that with herd immunity, in which enough people in a population are vaccinated, the disease vaccinated against has far less chances of spreading and it ultimately disappears altogether.
“One fine example is the eradication of smallpox. During the eradication campaign, the health authority practiced ring vaccination, meaning they vaccinated those around the index cases,” he said. An index case is the first patient identified in an outbreak.
“This means, the risk of the index person infecting others is halted by the ring. Hence those outside the ring, even not vaccinated, are also protected from smallpox. And that is how smallpox dies off.”
Dr Ahmad Firdaus said preschools must ensure that all children under their care are vaccinated.
“The children under their care are at an even higher risk of developing life threatening complications resulting from vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.
“In terms of fines, it may not be the best option as we also need to consider the family’s background and circumstances. Anti-vaxx parents can always opt to take care of their children themselves.”
Australia’s vaccination policy colloquially called “No jab, no play” prohibits unvaccinated children from enrolling in child care and preschools in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Parents of unvaccinated children also lose certain government benefits and subsidies. In Western Australia, unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children are not allowed to go to school or child care centres during disease outbreaks.
Italy’s “Lorezin” law reportedly fines parents who send their unvaccinated children to nursery and kindergarten. Parents also risk fines if they do not complete the mandatory immunisation course for their child, though children aged between six and 16 are not banned from attending school.
Medical Mythbusters Malaysia is an NGO comprising health care workers like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, dietitians, and assistant medical officers that uses social media to educate the public on health issues.