Compulsory Vaccination a No-Go?

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By Bryan Tan Van Hong

Publicity Associate at YPC. Currently working in Esyms, an online pharmacy platform and Registered Pharmacist at a retail pharmacy. Oh, and not to forget, pun enthusiast.

Amidst the governement’s plans to look into compulsory vaccination, The United Nations’ children’s agency has said that this is not the best way to address life-threatening diseases such as measles and diphteria.

Marianne Clark-Hattingh, Unicef’s representative in Malaysia said that mandatory laws do not always increase vaccination coverage, according to evidence. After the recent death of an unvaccinated boy due to diptheria, the Ministry of Health has started to look into compulsory vaccination. A task force has been set up solely for this purpose. Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the task force would be led by the ministry’s disease control division and family health development division.

Five more people who have been in contact with the deceased has been tested positive for diphteria and are currently being quarantined in Hospital Sultanah Aminah.

Compulsory vaccination will most likely lead to unvaccinated children not being able to attend school. This came after a report by Bernama that Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail revealed the government’s effort in studying the possibility of allowing only vaccinated children to enrol in schools. She said the proposal would be studied in detail. “That’s one of the things that we are proposing to prevent diseases,” said Dr Wan Azizah.

However, Unicef thinks otherwise. “Preventing an unvaccinated child from going to school is a violation of their right to access education,” Clark-Hattingh said. “Unicef’s position is that if children are denied access to school, then the government has a duty to ensure there are provisions for these children to receive an education.”

Despite this initial difference in view, Clark-Hattingh backed the government’s efforts to acknowledge the significance of vaccination by admitting that it is vital to understand the reason behind the parents’ reluctance. She encourages the need to guide them with the right information and targeted campaigns. She also highlights the need to constantly engage healthcare providers for improved communication with clients.

98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, according to Unicef.