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By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, March 20: The government should amend existing laws to make vaccination mandatory and impose criminal penalties against those who reject vaccination.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said Putrajaya should at least introduce compulsory vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and diphtheria for a start.
Appropriate penalties should also be considered on parents who refused vaccinations for their children, especially considering that it could cause death and endanger other children, he suggested.
“Although I don’t deny that there may be other reasons, but the anti-vaccination movement (Anti-Vaxxers) is one of the main reasons for the existence and increase in contagious diseases despite it can be prevented.
“Their careless, irresponsible attitude, ignorance and failure to vaccinate their children will not only expose the children to virus infection but also endanger the lives of other children and the community on a whole,” he said when debating the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s speech in the Dewan Rakyat today.
Dr Yii suggested the government consider a model used in Singapore, where parents would be fined if they don’t vaccinate their children. Through this model, the children will not be barred from attending school as recently introduced in Italy but to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.
“The mandatory vaccination laws should not be formulated to focus on punishment or solely with the intention to punish but to create awareness and educate parents on the importance of vaccination while debunking myths linked to vaccines.
On March 14, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told the Dewan Rakyat that the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 needed to be amended to give power to the government to make immunisation mandatory.
The government also needed to consider the element of exemption if it were to make vaccination mandatory. For example, if there were adverse reactions, the kind of compensation mechanism to be used and so forth.
He said the Health Ministry had set up a task force involving various stakeholders to study whether it could be implemented as well as its implications.
On a different note, Dr Yii urged the government to provide special allocation or subsidy to transport patients from Sarawak’s rural areas to seek treatment in major urban hospitals, especially at Sarawak General Hospital.
Currently, the state Health Department foots the bill to transport patients or fly in doctors to the rural areas, which cost up to RM8 million annually.
Apart from flight cost, another issue faced by the healthcare sector in Sarawak included the lack of specially-modified aircraft to transport bed-ridden patients, especially in the Bintulu and Sibu sectors, he pointed out. — DayakDaily