Puzzled by parents' anti-vaccine stand

Farhana Syed Nokman

THE reasons behind the increasing number of children in the country who did not receive vaccination are as puzzling as they are surprising.

Reports compiled in several states discovered varying reasons that were conservative and feeble despite the many efforts to create greater awareness of the importance of immunisation.

Traditional treatments, homeopathy, the halal-haram status of vaccines, influence of friends or family members, social media and even anti-vaccine movements involving doctors were among the reasons.

Checks by the New Straits Times in Kuala Terengganu revealed that there are hundreds of parents who remained adamant about rejecting immunisation for their children, despite receiving counselling from the authorities.

The Terengganu Education director said 265 parents stood by their decision even after teams of medical specialists visited their homes to educate them on vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Pahang Health director said there were parents and guardians who expressed doubts on the content of the vaccines, adding that such skewed thinking could lead to the spread of infectious diseases.

He said this was the reason why certain preventable diseases still occurred in the state.

The worrying trend has also prompted the Kedah government to seek to ascertain the number of pupils who had failed to receive vaccinations. This came after the state recorded the highest number of vaccine rejections in the country with 318 cases last year.

Last month, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya revealed in Parliament that nearly 1,600 children did not receive vaccination last year, compared with 1,500 in 2015.

Among the states with high numbers were Perak, Kedah, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kelantan, Penang and Selangor.

He said his ministry had implemented various initiatives to boost public confidence on the use of vaccines.

These included the launching of the 2016-2020 Immunisation Promotion programme, organising vaccination awareness campaigns, talks, workshops and publishing articles on vaccination, which were distributed to health clinics nationwide.

The ministry had also collaborated with the Malaysian Paediatric Association since 2013 and developed the Immunise For Life website aimed at promoting immunisation to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dr Hilmi had said 95 per cent of children in Malaysia had been vaccinated, and that the number was considered high and in accordance with World Health Organisation standards.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr John Chew Chee Ming said the fear of side-effects could be the reason why parents refused to vaccinate their children.

“Correct information on the benefits of vaccination will go a long way in getting parents to vaccinate their children.”

He said the anti-vaccine movement appeared to be popular because of social media, adding that certain doctors were allegedly involved in the movement.