Malaysia: Anti-vaxxers blamed for comeback of measles, diphtheria
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Malaysia: Anti-vaxxers blamed for comeback of measles, diphtheria

THE number of measles cases reported in Malaysia has increased by 340 percent. Compared to the 197 cases reported in the first half of 2015, this year has seen 873 measles cases so far, said the Health Department’s director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Sunday.

In the statement, Noor Hisham went on to say that the sharp rise in cases was due to children not being vaccinated against the disease.

Among the reasons given are parents forgetting or being too busy to bring their children in to be immunized; parents’ ignorance over the severity of measles; anti-vaccination sentiments; or favoring the practice of homeopathy or naturopathy over modern medicine.

“Out of a total 1,318 measles cases last year, more than half of them (61 percent) could have been prevented, with 28 percent of them not having been immunized, while 33 percent were not yet old enough for vaccination,” Noor Hisham said.

In Malaysia, children aged nine to 12 months old are vaccinated for measles under the National Immunization Program.

In another Facebook post, where he shared a local newspaper’s report of how a child was supposedly rendered immobile as a result of being immunized, Noor Hisham wrote:

“Refusing to vaccinate your kids is not a personal choice. One unimmunized person puts the well-being of greater society at risk. Living in a civilized society requires certain obligations and not wantonly bringing back vaccine-preventable diseases. There’s simply no choice when it comes to saving children’s lives.”

He questioned the media’s role in spreading misinformation and scaremongering over vaccines, as it is believed that the child may have suffered from an abnormality such as hydrocephaly that could have led to the complication.

The anti-vaccination movement has also been held responsible for the recent rash of diphtheria cases in the states of Kedah and Malacca, which has seen 11 confirmed cases so far and the deaths of two children – a seven-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy.

On Friday, Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahya said in the first three months of this year, there have already been 500 cases of parents declining vaccination for diphtheria.

Pediatrics specialist Dr Musa Nordin told state-owned wire Bernama that he was surprised with the complacent attitude or outright rejection of preventive measures by parents.

“Diseases such as diphtheria have been eradicated, but [they are] now making a comeback among children who do not receive vaccination and made worse by parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated,” he said, adding: “Of course, it is very worrying.”

Apparently, many Muslim parents are reluctant to immunize their children due to rumors of the diphtheria vaccine containing a porcine-derived component.

However, in checking the ingredients of the diphtheria vaccines at ProCon.org, Asian Correspondent found that if anything, it’s Hindus who should be wary, as some of them contain a bovine extract.

Even if vaccines were to contain porcine elements, from a religious perspective, it is still permissible, as Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said there is a fatwa stating that if it is categorized as a medicine, then it can be taken, as quoted by the Malay Mail Online.