The Ministry of Health (MOH) has traced nearly 1,600 children who did not receive their vaccinations last year compared with 1,500 in 2015.

Deputy minister of health Dr Hilmi Yahya said that these included children in several states such as Perak, Kedah, Pahang, Kelantan and Selangor.

"However, 95% of the children in the country have been vaccinated and the number is considered high and in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards," he said.

This was in reply to Kamarul Baharin Abbas (PKR-Teluk Kemang) during a parliamentary session, who wanted to know what the health ministry was doing to disseminate vaccine-related information to the public.

Various initiatives implemented to encourage vaccinations

Dr Hilmi added that the ministry had launched various initiatives to boost public confidence in vaccines, including the 2016-2020 immunisation promotion programme and awareness campaigns, talks and workshops on vaccinations, and publishing articles to be distributed to health clinics nationwide.

"MOH in collaboration with the Malaysian Paediatric Association, has since 2013 developed and maintained the 'Immunise For Life' website aimed at promoting immunisation to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases," he said.

This concern comes after last year's vaccine scandal that claimed porcine-DNA was in several vaccines, making it an issue for Muslim children.

This even triggered the MOH to embark on a search for a new halal vaccine formula which is plant-based, including plant extracts with medicinal properties.

Refusal of vaccines due to misinformation

Dr Mohamad Kamal Mohamad Akram, a spokesman for the Malaysian Pre-Houseman Joint (MPHJ) said that the refusal of vaccines by parents has much to do with the fact that smallpox and polio cases are not seen in Malaysia.

"The average person would not be able to remember any of these human tragedies inflicted by killer diseases, let alone know about Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) caused by polio. But they probably would be able to rattle about the rare adverse effects following immunisation of vaccines and equate the MMR vaccine as the cause of autism," he said.

He explained that many anti-vaccine websites provide unscientific, misleading and alarming information on vaccine safety and parents especially, should not believe the myths and misinformation.

He emphasised that vaccines administered to healthy children and adults are strictly regulated to satisfy stringent and high standards of safety including at least 10 to 15 years of research, clinical trials and testing before a vaccine can be licensed.

"Much of the misinformation on vaccine safety has been addressed and debunked by WHO, UNICEF and key NGOs who initiated the Vaccine Safety Net Project (VSN) to respond quickly and scientifically to safety issues," he added. MIMS

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