Health Minister studying pharmacists’ proposal to vaccinate

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad

The Health Ministry will consider a proposal by the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) to include pharmacists as vaccination advocates and providers.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said he views the proposal as a “concern of a stakeholder” and “will take it up seriously.”

Speaking to Twentytwo13 today, Dr Dzulkefly said: “I recognise and appreciate their (MPS) concerns and commitment and their views will be certainly discussed in a bid to make immunisation vaccination compulsory.”

Dr Dzulkefly had last night announced he will be tabling a proposal to his ministry to make immunisation vaccination compulsory, and if agreed upon, it will be presented to the Cabinet.

MPS president Amrahi Buang, had in a statement early yesterday, said it was time the government updated the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) to include pharmacists as vaccination advocates and providers.

He also urged the government to make vaccination mandatory to lower the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and mortality rates.

Amrahi said vaccination by pharmacists is not new and there is growing acceptance of the role of community pharmacist vaccination worldwide. Studies have shown intervention and participation in vaccination programmes have improved vaccination coverage.

Dr Dzulkefly said while he understands the role played by pharmacists especially at the community level in reaching out to a wider group, the decision whether or not to empower pharmacists to become vaccination advocates and providers will only be made following consultation with officials of his ministry.

“These suggestions will be considered when discussing the agenda (to make immunisation vaccination compulsory) as well as the implementation and execution aspect.”

The vaccination issue came into the spotlight once again after a two-year-old boy from Johor Baru was believed to have died due to diptheria on Feb 21. Findings by the ministry revealed the toddler had never been immunised. Health advocates have also been battling anti-vaxxers who are encouraging others to shun immunisation.

Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry has for some time been considering mandatory immunisation but now there is a pressing need to address the matter.

“While noting all reasons and rationale for it not being made mandatory previously, I am revisiting the NIP with a view of getting it endorsed by the Cabinet.”

Once endorsed, vaccinations listed and scheduled under the NIP will be provided for free at government hospitals and clinics as this will encourage more people to be vaccinated.

Last year, 18 diphteria cases involving children below the age of 10 were reported. Four of the five children who died were not immunised.

According to the ministry, vaccination for toddlers aged nine months and above is only at 89 per cent. The ministry is targeting a vaccination rate of 95 per cent for effective control of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria and neonatal tetanus.