Adham: Pneumococcal Vaccination Programme Will Continue

The health minister says listing the pneumococcal vaccine in the National Immunisation Programme was temporarily halted during the Covid-19 outbreak.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 14 — The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government will keep the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration’s pledge of giving free pneumococcal jabs to babies born this year, Dr Adham Baba said.

The health minister said listing the pneumococcal vaccine under the National Immunisation Programme (NIP), which was originally scheduled last June, would resume after a temporary halt during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We’re getting the government’s commitment to release the funds so that we can give the vaccine to children who have been promised the pneumococcal jab,” Dr Adham told the Dewan Rakyat Wednesday during a debate on the Supplementary Supply Bill (2019) 2020.

“It’s important to give the pneumococcal vaccine under the NIP. It was postponed a little during Covid, but we will continue.”

The PH government had allocated RM60 million in Budget 2020 for the pneumococcal vaccination programme that aims to provide free jabs for children born this year.

Dr Adham also told Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh that the government’s open tender process for procuring the pneumococcal vaccine was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For now, the open tender process is at the approval stage at the Finance Ministry.

“The pneumococcal vaccine will be given under the National Immunisation Programme to eligible children after the vaccine is supplied to all public health clinics,” Dr Adham said in a written Parliament reply on August 13.

The PCV10 vaccine protects against 10 serotypes, or strains, of the pneumococcus bacteria. The more expensive PCV13 vaccine covers the same pneumococcal strains as PCV10, plus an additional three serotypes — 19A, 6A, and 3. Serotypes 19A and 6A were among the most common pneumococcal serotypes in Malaysia; serotype 19A is also very resistant to antibiotics. MOH has yet to announce which pneumococcal vaccine it will list in the NIP.

Advocates previously told the PN administration to proceed with the childhood immunisation programme, noting that low-income and middle class families cannot afford to spend RM250 or more per dose for the pneumococcal vaccine.

The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (called pneumococcus). The World Health Organization 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.

Update at 8:15pm: The article has been updated to include Dr Adham’s written Parliament reply to Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh on the status of the open tender process for procuring the pneumococcal vaccine.

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