With the staggering rate of vaccine rejections in the country on the rise – the G25 group have announced measures to tackle this pressing issue, at the launch of a vaccination awareness campaign held recently.

“Religious” reasons remains as one of the causes of vaccine refusal. Representatives of the group said that this is leading to the return of previously eradicated diseases in Malaysia. They shared that the campaign serves to allay such unfounded fears.

Two videos in Bahasa Malaysia available for public viewing

Datuk Dr Narimah Awin, a G25 member shared that the Health Ministry found religious objections to be particularly prominent within the Muslim community.

“Many of these are due to parents being afraid that it is haram (forbidden). There is a trend in Malaysia whereby parents reject because of halal and haram,” remarked the former Health Ministry director of Family Health Development, during the press conference.

To educate the general public and raise awareness on the importance of vaccinations, the G25 group unveiled two new videos in Bahasa Malaysia titled “Apakah itu Vaksin? (What are vaccines?)” and “Adakah vaksin itu haram dan sebabkan autisma? (Are vaccines forbidden and do they cause autism?)”.

The reason why more parents are refusing vaccinations for their children is due to the belief that it contains pig DNA, as well as the possibility of developing conditions such as autism from it, explained National Heart Institute (IJN) founder Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang.

He spoke about diphtheria – which was thought to have been eradicated in the country – claiming the lives of five last year. “Then we found out that certain sections of society have unsubstantiated doubts about vaccination. Doubts on how it is done, if it contains pig DNA, if side effects lead autism and is it halal,” he said.

Not only did the diphtheria resurgence killed five victims in 2016, it also resulted in the first adult infection case in Malaysia’s history. Based on the Ministry of Health’s data, most of the vaccine refusals came from the states of Perak, Pahang and Terengganu.

Assistant director of the Health Ministry’s Family Health Development division, Dr Rozita Abdul Rahman said that there were 1,600 cases of rejectors last year – as previously reported. She added that some parents would rather opt for homeopathic treatments compared to vaccines. In order to change the public perceptions, the Health Ministry is working together with religious authorities.

Over 800 cases of vaccine refusal reported since January 2017

According to Dr Rozita, medical practitioners have also been affected by buzz surrounding whether the vaccines were “halal” or not. She said the ministry has organised health education sessions to tackle this. In addition, healthcare professionals would undertake counselling if they were known to be against vaccinations.

She stressed on the importance of relaying accurate information to patients. “Parents who come to hospitals to get their children vaccinated will be informed of the vaccines’ contents and the importance of vaccination. So, this is where they have to play their role to disseminate the right information to their families on why vaccination is important.”

From January to June of this year, more than 800 cases of vaccination refusals have been reported. Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, former health ministry director-general remarked during the launch that this issue was not unique to Malaysia.

He said countries such as Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria were also in the same boat further asserting, “This is a global issue in which naysayers and religious bigots feel uncomfortable when it comes to vaccination.” MIMS

Read more:
Health Minister: 500,000 Malaysians suffering from Hepatitis C, but most unaware of infection
Rabies outbreak in Sarawak remains at five, but collaboration with Indonesia needed to curb the spread
Sarawak government plans initiatives to tackle mental health issues