Pneumococcal vaccination remains major priority, says Health Minister

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad

The Health Ministry remains committed in ensuring pneumococcal vaccination (PCV) is listed in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).

Responding to Twentytwo13′s article ‘Will PH govt uphold pneumococcal vaccination pledge?‘ published yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad tweeted: “As you alluded the PCV is in the Buku Harapan. There are many competing health priorities within a finite budget.

“Rest assured PCV (being listed) in the National Immunisation Programme remains a major priority of the PH government towards fulfilling our promise to our children.”

Another ranking official from the ministry who declined to be named, said after reading the article: “We have been pushing too”.

The lack of money has been the stumbling block in making pneumococcal vaccination part of the NIP in Malaysia for over a decade.

Pakatan Harapan, had in its manifesto before the 14th general election in May last year, pledged to make PCV mandatory.

In October last year, Dr Dzulkefly said he had put in a special request for Budget 2020 which will be tabled on Oct 11 for pneumococcal vaccine to the tune of RM180 million for a cohort (batch) of about 500,000 per year.

If true, it remains unclear if the government will invest in PCV13- or PCV10-covered serotypes.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), pneumococcal is a common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, though rates of disease and death are higher in developing countries with the majority of deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. An estimated one million children die of pneumococcal disease every year.

The Department of Statistics, Malaysia revealed that in 2017, deaths caused by Ischaemic heart diseases was 13.9 per cent followed by pneumonia (12.7 per cent) while the principal cause of death in rural areas was pneumonia (13.4 per cent).

WHO recommends the inclusion of PCV in childhood immunisation programmes worldwide. PCV had been introduced in 145 countries by the end of 2018.