‘Send kids who missed routine vaccinations for catch-up immunisation, ASAP’

Parents who did not bring their children for the three-dose diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) jabs and other vaccinations during the various Movement Control Orders (MCOs), can still get the injections from their family doctors, says Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) president, Dr Selva Kumar Sivapunniam.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) announced recently that 25 million children worldwide had missed their vaccinations last year for various reasons, including Covid-19 lockdowns.

Coverage dropped in every region, as data on the take-up of the three-dose diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) jabs included children who got no jabs at all, and those who missed one of the three doses necessary for protection.

Globally, coverage fell by five per cent, to 81 per cent, last year. This was the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years.

The world bodies noted that the figure in 2021 was 2 million more than those who missed out in 2020, and 6 million more than in 2019, highlighting the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases.

However, Dr Selva Kumar said there was still time for parents to get the vaccines.

He said parents who had gone to government clinics would have received calls from them about their vaccination appointments.

He is unsure if those who had gone to private clinics had received similar calls, but said it should be standard practice.

“The situation in Malaysia is not as bad as in certain countries,” said Dr Selva Kumar.

He said this was because government clinics had called those who had missed their vaccinations – even during the lockdowns.

“It began mopping-up activities as soon as the lockdowns ended. However, there are still pockets of resistance – such as immigrants and locals who do not want to go to the clinics for whatever reason.”

He noted that data from government hospitals and clinics showed that the number of vaccinations had dropped during the various Movement Control Orders. The first MCO was implemented on March 18, 2020, to combat the spread of Covid-19.

“People were afraid to go out during the first MCO, as movement was severely restricted.

“Our Klinik Kesihatan kept meticulous records and was able to identify those who had not received their vaccines,” he said.

“Parents whose kids have not received all their shots can see their doctors and get the catch-up immunisation.

“My advice is: Go to the clinics as soon as possible, as it will help your children fight off diseases.”

Unicef’s senior immunisation specialist, Niklas Danielsson, had said that the world was facing a “child health crisis”.

He added a focus on Covid-19 immunisation campaigns in 2021, and the economic slowdown and strain on the healthcare system had stymied the quicker recovery for routine vaccinations.

He explained that the number of children who did not receive vaccinations rose by 37 per cent between 2019 and 2021, from 13 to 18 million children, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

More than 90 per cent of children need to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks.

There have been reports of rising vaccine-preventable diseases, including a 400 per cent rise in the number of measles cases in Africa in 2022.

The numbers are from data from national health systems in 177 countries.