Measles cases spike 340% in Malaysia

The figures come amid reports that an increasing number of Malaysian parents are not immunising their children over fears that the vaccines are not halal.
The figures come amid reports that an increasing number of Malaysian parents are not immunising their children over fears that the vaccines are not halal.PHOTO: ST FILE

Health Department cites rise in number of children not getting vaccinated

PETALING JAYA • Malaysia has seen a 340 per cent leap in the number of measles infections within the first week of this month, the country's Health Department said, citing a rise in the number of children who were not immunised against the disease.

There were 873 cases reported in that week compared with the 197 recorded in the corresponding period last year, an increase of 676 cases, the department said. Most of the cases involved private homes (63.6 per cent), followed by institutions (28.8 per cent) and the community (7.6 per cent).

"Last year, there were 1,318 cases of measles with two deaths. There has not been any death this year," Health Department director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a posting on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Datuk Noor Hisham said 66 outbreaks were reported during the first week of June, a fivefold increase compared with the same period last year.

Immunisation against measles is given to children when they are between nine and 12 months, under the national immunisation programme.

RESISTANCE TO VACCINATION

Factors identified for this reluctance to vaccinate include misinformation, untruths and myths found on the Internet and social media.

DATUK ABD RAHIM MOHAMAD, president of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia.

The figures come amid public concern over reports that an increasing number of parents are not immunising their children over fears that the vaccines available are not halal.

Kedah has the highest number of rejection cases in the country.

This was despite a declaration by the National Fatwa Council that the vaccines are halal.

Last Saturday, Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said the ministry would discuss with the Health Ministry the issue of mandatory vaccinations for students nationwide.

His comments followed the death of a seven-year-old girl who died from a diphtheria bacterial infection in Malacca.

In Kedah, a two-year-old toddler has also died, and the same illness is believed to be the cause.

Last Wednesday, the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia said the resurgence of infectious diseases such as diphtheria, which had virtually disappeared in Malaysia, was due to the reluctance of some parents to vaccinate their children.

"Factors identified for this reluctance to vaccinate include misinformation, untruths and myths found on the Internet and social media," said association president Abd Rahim Mohamad. He urged muftis and religious scholars to provide correct information about immunisation and to "steer away from myths, fiction and conspiracy theories".

The Malaysian Medical Association also said last week that Malaysia had been providing good infant immunisation coverage for the past three decades.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Measles cases spike 340% in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe