Kedah to check on those not vaccinated, Pahang worries over upward trend


SUNGAI PETANI: The state government will get all primary schools to submit a report on vaccination screening of pupils to district education offices.

State Education and Transportation Committee chairman Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain said the state government would study the reports to ascertain how many pupils in Kedah had not been vaccinated.

“We will ask the schools’ administrations to call up parents whose children have yet to be vaccinated, for consultation,” he said, adding he would meet the Kedah Education Department on issuing a circular on the matter.

“It is crucial for parents to be given proper advice on the importance of immunisation.

“We had fatal diphtheria cases involving two siblings at the Paya Nahu Flats last year,” he said here recently.

Last July, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid reportedly said the ministry was ready to carry out vaccination screenings at 7,000 national and vernacular primary schools nationwide.

The screenings were suggested by the Health Ministry in light of a rise in diphtheria cases last year.

Diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose, and symptoms usually emerge between two and seven days after infection.

The disease can cause life-threatening complications, such as myocarditis, paralysis and kidney failure. A vaccine against diphtheria is administered when an infant is at 2, 3 and 4 months old. A booster dose is administered when the infant is 18 months old.

Kedah recorded the highest number of vaccine rejection cases in the country with 318 cases last year, and more than the 239 cases in 2014.

Last June, a 2-year-old boy Muhammad Harris Haikal Amdin died due to diphtheria, followed by his 11-month-old brother Muhammad Rushaidi Rizqi a month later. It was reported that the siblings had not completed their scheduled vaccinations.

Meanwhile, the upward trend in the number of children who are not vaccinated in Pahang is a cause for concern.

State Health director Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman said there were 178 cases detected last year, an increase from 126 in 2015 and 84 in 2014.

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 of family members or friends.

“The phenomena of parents or guardians refusing to allow their children to receive immunisation is worrying because it could endanger the children, as well as potentially become the cause of spread of an infection.”

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

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

He noted that cases of measles this year involved those aged between 1 and 36 years old, with 70 per cent made up of those aged between 21 and 36 years old, with the remainder comprised babies not qualified to receive immunisation.

Dr Sha’ari said the state Health Department sought to combat the problem by raising awareness on the importance of children receiving their complete immunisation, through the mass media and 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.