Baby Misses Pneumococcal Jab After Parents Barred From Interstate Travel

The father says police told him interstate travel would only be allowed for family deaths.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — A 16-month-old baby has missed a pneumococcal shot and a deworming syrup after police rejected his parents’ application to travel from Selangor to Perak.

Lee Seng Foo said he and his wife, based in Petaling Jaya, had planned to bring their son, Jonah, back home from Ipoh — where Jonah was staying with grandparents — ahead of Jonah’s appointment at a public health clinic (Klinik Kesihatan) in Kelana Jaya on March 23. But the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed on March 18.

Lee tweeted that he and his spouse decided to wait out the partial lockdown instead of joining the initial “balik kampung” rush, as the MCO then was only two weeks’ long. But the government has extended it three times until May 12, making the partial lockdown eight weeks’ long.

“Besides KK (Klinik Kesihatan), my son was also supposed to go to a private clinic as well as Hospital Kuala Lumpur for separate check-ups. He has missed a pneumococcal shot and a deworming syrup,” Lee, a 32-year-old sports journalist, told CodeBlue.

The pneumococcal vaccine, recommended for children below two years old, protects against the contagious pneumococcal disease that is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to kill about one million children globally every year. According to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pneumococcus bacteria is the most common cause of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, meningitis, and middle ear infections in young children. The previous Pakatan Harapan administration allocated RM60 million in the federal 2020 Budget for pneumococcal vaccination.

Lee told CodeBlue that he visited the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters on April 27, bringing along a letter applying for permission to travel between May 1 and 3 from Selangor to Perak and back. The police said previously on April 26 that interstate travel permits were only meant for those who were stuck in their hometowns and wished to return to their place of residence or work, with travel dates set between May 1 and 3. But Lee still went to the police station because he thought he had a valid reason.

According to Lee, Petaling Jaya police did not read his letter and just questioned him on the spot, asking him why he needed to go back and if he had applied through the Gerak Malaysia app.

“They said they cannot allow anyone to travel interstate except for family deaths,” Lee said.

He added that he had applied through the Gerak Malaysia app, but the app does not allow users to state if they have a travel companion and he was afraid that, without a written permit, he and his spouse might face difficulties at roadblocks.

“In the app, there’s no column to state your reason etc. You just click the interstate travel button and a message popped up saying something like ‘your request is being processed. Please check back on April 29’.”

Lee said he needed his wife to travel with him back to Ipoh so that she could take care of their baby on their way back home to Petaling Jaya. His spouse doesn’t drive and Lee did not want her taking public transport to avoid exposure to Covid-19.

“In the event we are not allowed to come back, we can maybe still bring Jonah to KK Ipoh — KK usually requires the mother to be there,” he said.

When asked if his in-laws could bring the baby to the Ipoh public health clinic for vaccination instead, Lee said they weren’t familiar with the process and were worried about the coronavirus. Jonah’s health and immunisation record book (pink book) and medical documents are in Ipoh.

“And with all due respect, I trust only myself and my wife when it comes to my son’s medical stuff,” he said, adding that Jonah is sent to stay with grandparents once in a while so that he and his wife, a corporate secretary, can focus on work.

Immunise4Life programme, a community health education initiative by MOH, has urged parents to bring their babies for scheduled immunisation shots during the Covid-19 crisis, saying that delaying or skipping the vaccination schedule could leave the baby defenceless against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also recently told parents to follow their children’s immunisation schedule and clinic appointment dates, as vaccination programmes at public health facilities were operating as usual during the MCO.

Lee said it was difficult for he and his wife to be apart from their young son for over a month, especially after they lost their first child three years ago, though they keep in touch with Jonah and Jonah’s grandparents through video calls.

“I think MCO should still be extended but loosen up. I understand its importance, but there needs to be some leeways or exit plans, which I haven’t seen any sign of them. It is even more frustrating especially when we have seen certain people getting the privilege of travelling as they like.”

The public has recently criticised politicians and high-profile figures for openly making visits and gathering in groups without seeming repercussions, while ordinary citizens have been immediately arrested and sentenced to jail for breaching the lockdown.

Terengganu police reportedly said no further action would be taken against Terengganu Mentri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and a group of people, including Kijal state assemblyman Ahmad Said, for allegedly breaking the MCO, after Samsuri visited Ahmad’s house together with what was believed to be volunteers who had distributed aid.

Deputy Health Minister I Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak state executive councillor Razman Zakaria were fined RM1,000 each on Tuesday for breaking the MCO, with Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob reportedly saying that both lawmakers were not remanded because they had merely broken the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the MCO, “not the MCO itself”.

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