Almost immediately after a news article on the Ministry of Health’s statements regarding vaccinations was published on the front page of an English daily yesterday, MOH deputy director-general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman released a statement denying having ever said that health clinics were given a directive to avoid giving children two vaccinations at one time, as published in the article.

“My replies to several questions regarding this issue were misinterpreted which can cause confusion,” he said in the statement written in Bahasa Malaysia., stressing that there has been no such order from the ministry.

Report claimed MOH had instructed not to give two jabs at the same time

The news article dated 24 October quoted Lokman as saying that immunisation shots should be given one at a time as outlined in the National Immunisation Schedule, and parents whose children have missed their vaccination could discuss with healthcare providers to reschedule the immunisation date such that it does not overlap with another.

“Giving two jabs at the same time happens when the immunisation schedule is breached,” the news article quoted him, further adding that the ministry has informed healthcare personnel in clinics of the matter.

His statement was reportedly in response to pleas by parents who claimed that their children became autistic after receiving two vaccinations on the same day at the age of 18 months.

The article then quoted Lokman, listing several statistics of child autism rates in the country, as well as a study in Yokohama between 1988 and 1996, which showed that number of autism cases did not reduce despite a drop in MMR immunisation rates.

“In Malaysia, a study conducted in five districts between 2005 and 2006 showed there were two cases of autism for every 1,000 children aged between 18 months and three years,” the daily quoted Lokman.

“This is within the global range of one to six cases among every 1,000 children.”

The news article went on to mention several claims by parents, including a couple who said that their son, who was born normal, became autistic following two vaccination jabs at the age of two.

Health deputy DG stresses that vaccination not tied to autism

However, Lokman has refuted claims that two vaccinations should not be given at one time, stressing that his words have been misinterpreted.

According to Lokman, he had tried to allay fears of vaccination leading to autism raised by parents whose children allegedly became autistic following vaccinations at 18 months of age, by explaining that the Immunisation Schedule for a child of 18 months covers a single jab of five-in-one vaccine DTaP-Hib/IPV which covers diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, haemophilus influenza B and polio.

The vaccine, he also said, was the same vaccine given at ages two, three and five months, and was not linked to autism based on strong evidence.

While vaccination shots are administered at different intervals based on the Immunisation Schedule, Lokman added that this is an exception in cases where children have missed their vaccinations, and whose parents have consulted their healthcare provider for a reschedule.

“This schedule of administering the jabs at intervals has nothing to do with some parents’ concerns on autism but is more for the comfort of the child and parents,” he said. “Furthermore, there are many countries worldwide which give double vaccinations on the same day. This is a norm and has not caused any effects on the child’s health.”

Lokman also warned the media to be more careful when reporting such issues, and requested that the publication be amended immediately to avoid confusion amongst the public. MIMS

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