Covid-19 Disrupted Pneumococcal Vaccine Procurement, MOH Still Working On Supply

Approximately 83,000 children received the pneumococcal jab at private health facilities last year, up from 72,000 in 2018.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) in the process of supplying the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) to all public health clinics, Dr Adham Baba said.

According to the health minister, the open tender procurement process for the vaccine against pneumococcal disease has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but he did not specify an estimated timeline of when the vaccine would be purchased and supplied.

Dr Adham told Sibu MP Oscar Ling Chai Yew (DAP) in a written Parliament reply dated July 13 that pneumococcal vaccination under the National Child Immunisation Programme is estimated to benefit approximately 500,000 eligible children every year.

“MOH remains committed to reducing morbidity and mortality due to pneumococcal bacterial infections among children,” Dr Adham said in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Currently, there are two types of PCV registered with the Drug Control Authority. Both types of vaccines are now available in private health facilities.”

Ling had asked the health minister to state the number of children who have received the pneumococcal vaccine and the amount spent by the government for it.

The minister mentioned that approximately 72,000 children have received the pneumococcal jab at private health facilities in 2018, with the number increasing to 83,000 in 2019.

“The MOH, at the same time, is expanding its efforts to increase immunisation coverage for existing vaccines in the National Child Immunisation Schedule.

“The occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic and implementation of the movement control order (MCO) has affected overall vaccination, and this increases the risk of vaccine-preventable outbreaks if it persists,” Dr Adham said in his Parliament reply.

According to Dr Adham, health workers are making efforts to track children who skipped their jabs during the MCO period so that their vaccination can be rescheduled.

Then-Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye from the previous Pakatan Harapan administration announced last January that the government has allocated RM60 million in Budget 2020 for the pneumococcal vaccination programme, estimated to start in June, that aims to provide free jabs for children born this year.

But after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in January, the Perikatan Nasional government has yet to announce the listing of the PCV in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) that would make it mandatory.

Advocates have questioned when the pneumococcal vaccine will be listed in the NIP, reminding the government that free immunisation is necessary to cover children from poor families who may not be able to afford RM250 or more per dose for the vaccine.

The PCV protects against pneumococcal disease caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (called pneumococcus). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that pneumococcal disease kills about one million children globally every year. According to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumococcus is the most common cause of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, meningitis, and middle ear infections in young children.

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