Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said yesterday, 24 February, that the Ministry is planning to table a proposal and policy to make immunisation vaccination compulsory
"I will be bringing the matter to the Health Ministry post-Cabinet meeting, and if it is supported, it will be brought to the Cabinet," Dr Dzulkefly said in a report by The Star.
"I believe there will be arguments for and against the proposal, and the ministry will consider all views seriously."
The proposal comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the death of a two-year-old boy from a suspected diphtheria infection
According to the media statement by MOH, the child never received any immunisation since birth.
On 16 February, the toddler developed a fever, cough, and swelling tonsils. He was admitted to a hospital two days after on 18 February and given respiratory assistance and the treatment of diphtheria antitoxin.
"Unfortunately, the child could not be saved and died on 21 February due to severe diphtheria with multiorgan failure. Detection tests on throat samples showed the presence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria," said health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
However, on the same day, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the government had "no plans to make [vaccinations] compulsory"
At the 'Let's Quash Dengue' event in Ipoh yesterday, theSun reported Lee saying, "We have seen a country like France tightening their vaccination laws but we should know that problems also arise from that. We have also considered it but we have no plans to make it compulsory."
He added, "Once we want to run such enforcement, some parents might play with the religion issue and this is hard to control as it is their beliefs. What we can do is to give an explanation to the parents on the facilities that we have to encourage them to vaccinate their children."
Lee added that vaccinations given to children at nine months old has not reached its targeted rate of 95%. It currently only stands at 89%.
In a separate matter, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof has urged anti-vaccine groups to stop debating the importance of vaccines
In a report by New Straits Times yesterday, Dr Mujahid said, "Vaccines produced in the country are not haram and are (medically) approved. There should be no issue."
"Those who create the debate should stop doing so as it will affect the effort to build resilience in children," he added.