By Dr Rohana Ismail, Senior Principal Assistant Director Of Health,Division Of Family Healh t Development , Ministry Of Health Malaysia
Our bodies have a natural defence system against disease, called the immune system. The immune system produces substances called antibodies which help fight off infection and prevent disease.
However, many diseases can cause serious long lasting health problems, even death, before we can build up antibodies. Vaccinations are given to strengthen the immune system to fight off those diseases if they come into contact with them.
Vaccination provides protection against infections. Once we have been vaccinated against a disease, our bodies are more able to fight that disease if we come into contact with it.
Moreover, if enough people are immunised, the disease can be controlled or even wiped out. This is called the “herd immunity”, where the community is protected too. Herd immunity is very important, particularly as some people cannot be immunised.
It is very important to have children vaccinated because the chances of getting the diseases are very high in unvaccinated children. Vaccination not only protects children but also reduces treatment cost as it prevents the disease from spreading to other family members.
VACCINATION IN MALAYSIA
Malaysia started the National Immunisaton Programme in the mid 50’s. Today, we provide vaccination for 11 childhood diseases.
Many vaccines have been replaced with newer vaccines as the technology of vaccine production improves. The Ministry of Health allocates specific amount of money per year for childhood vaccination, providing protection for more than 95% of children in the target age group.
To raise awareness among parents, various health materials are available at health clinics and hospitals as reference. A lot of information on vaccination are also made available through the Ministry of Health’s website and online.
With the new Child Health Record introduced in 2011, more health information including vaccination against diseases, child development, injury prevention etc, will be given to parents upon discharge from hospital after birth or when they visit health clinics.
The challenge for the ministry is when parents do not bring their child for vaccination according to schedule, or worse, deprive their child the right to be vaccinated.
This could be caused by a lack of awareness of the importance of vaccination, as they have not seen the severe complications of not having vaccination. They may also be influnced by publicity raised by anti-vaccines groups.
To combat this, various approaches has been undertaken, such as health promotional activities and materials. This begins before the baby is born, where health talks are given or shown on videos when the mothers come to the health clinic for antenatal check-ups.
Follow-up visit are done when the child is born and a healthcare staff will visit the house or remind by phone if a vaccination appointment is missed. The new Child Health Record provides guidance to parents on the immunisation schedule, more so when the vaccinationa are given free at MOH clinics nationwide.
Recently MOH has partnered with the Malaysian Paediatric Association for the Immunise4life campaign to impart knowledge and ensure parents send their children for vaccination. All parties (government and non-government) should come together in this activity.
With improving technology in vaccination and new vaccines being invented, we have to keep up with the times. The Ministry continues to study ways to further improve family health such as including new vaccines into the national vaccination programme and encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated for diseases that are not covered under the programme.
Vaccination schedule recommended by Ministry of Health Malaysia
AGE OF VACCINATION
|Hepatitis B||Hepatitis B||At birth, 1 months, 6 months|
|Diptheria||5 in 1 combination vaccine Diptheria-Pertussis-Tetanus-Haemophilus influenzae type b-Polio (DTaP-IPV//Hib)||2 months, 3 months, 5 months|
|Haemophilus infleunzae type b (Hib) Disease||2 months, 3 months, 5 months|
|Mumps||Combination vaccine of Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)||12 months|
|Human papilommavirus infection/Cervical Cancer||HPV vaccine||Form 1 (girls only)|