Anti-vaxxer cases on the rise in Pahang

HIDIR REDUAN


KUANTAN: Pahang recorded 178 cases of parents rejecting immunisation for their children last year, marking an increase of 52 cases in 2015.

State Health director Dr Sha'ari Ngadiman said that despite the authorities achieving their target in ensuring children are immunised via free immunisation programmes at clinics and hospitals statewide, there are still parents and guardians who refused immunisation for children.

“The number of (parents and guardians) who rejected immunisation (for children under their care) have increased year to year. It was 84 in 2014, 126 in 2015, and now, 178 cases in 2016,” he said via a statement today.

The statement came about in response to Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya's statement in Parliament on Monday, where he said the ministry had identified 1,600 unvaccinated children in Malaysia last year.

He said the states that recorded the highest number of unvaccinated children were Selangor, Kedah, Terengganu, Perak, Pahang, Kelantan, and Penang.

Today, Dr Sha'ari said the main reason behind the refusal of vaccination for children involved the issue of "halal-haram" (what is allowed or prohibited in Islam), doubts (by certain parents and guardians) on the content of vaccines, the practice of alternative treatments like homeopathy, as well as influence from family members or friends.

“The phenomena of parents or guardians refusing to allow their children to be immunised is very worrying because it could endanger the children as well as potentially become a cause of spread of the infection,” he said.

He said this situation had led to the existence of preventable diseases such as Hepatitis B, measles, and whooping cough (bacterial infection that causes coughs and cold-like symptoms) in Pahang.

“As at April 3, 2017, there were 10 confirmed cases of measles reported in Pahang compared to 30 cases for the same period in 2016,” he said, adding that there were three measles outbreaks this year compared to one outbreak for the whole of 2016.

He noted that cases of measles this year involve those aged between one and 36-years-old, with 70 per cent made up of those aged between 21 and 36 with the remainder comprising babies not qualified yet to receive immunisation.

“In Malaysia, adults infected with measles would not be as adversely affected as babies or children infected with the disease," he said.

Dr Sha'ari said the state health department seeks to combat the problem by raising awareness on the importance of children receiving their complete immunisation, through the mass media and online social media.

To this end, he said the department would cooperate with other government agencies and the community.

Currently, the state government provides free immunisation through 84 health clinics, five health clinics for mothers and children, 239 rural clinics and 11 hospitals.