KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said on Thursday (Mar 7) that the government will not impose compulsory childhood vaccination, adding that parents should be free to make their own choices over the issue.
Dr Wan Azizah's comments come one week after she said that the government was considering allowing only children who had been immunised to enrol for school.
On Thursday, however, she told reporters: “We encourage parents to have their children vaccinated, but right now we cannot force them as it is their choice.
“But we would like for parents to protect their children by vaccinating them before they catch the disease,” she added, according to a report by the New Straits Times.
The issue of childhood vaccination has been in the spotlight since a two-year-old boy died in Johor Bahru last month. The boy, who was believed to have had diphtheria, had never been immunised.
Some parents in Malaysia have opted out of immunisation, due to concerns that the vaccines may contain porcine DNA. This is despite the National Fatwa Council declaring that all vaccines provided by the Malaysian government are halal.
Others believe that vaccinations can lead to autism.
On Feb 25, the health ministry said it would start implementing compulsory vaccination.
Dr Wan Azizah later said on Mar 1 that the government was studying a proposal to allow only immunised children to enrol for school.
This sparked concern from parents, who said that they should have the final say over the matter.
UNICEF has also weighed in on the issue, noting that preventing unvaccinated children from going to school would violate their right to education.
On Thursday, the Malaysian health ministry said it is now considering making the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) as well as diphtheria vaccines compulsory for children.
“We can make it compulsory for one or two vaccines,” Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail.
In Singapore, vaccinations against diphtheria and measles have been mandatory for children under the National Childhood Immunisation Programme since 1962.