Vac­ci­na­tion drive

A health vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign for refugees in Kota Kinabalu is be­gin­ning to show re­sults, writes Olivia Mi­wil

New Straits Times - - LIFE & TIMES - Olivia@nst.com.my

ALL eyes are on a group of peo­ple dressed in white as they step out of a govern­ment-is­sued van at the refugee re­set­tle­ment area in Telipok, Kota Kinabalu. The team, from the Telipok Health Clinic, is in the area to pro­vide vac­ci­na­tion for the chil­dren as part of the free im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme in­tro­duced in 2016 by the Health Min­istry.

As­mariah Ab­dul, 30, brought five of her chil­dren to be vac­ci­nated as she is aware that it will re­duce their risk of in­fec­tious dis­eases.

As­mariah, who is un­able to af­ford the cost of im­mu­ni­sa­tion, is grate­ful for the pro­gramme.

“My hus­band works odd jobs and his in­come is only enough for us to get by. I know it is im­por­tant to get th­ese jabs be­cause it pre­vents the chil­dren from get­ting sick but we just can­not af­ford it,” says the mother of eight.

For No­razri­ana Na­jib, 28, the vac­ci­na­tions are op­tional as she gives her two sons parac­eta­mol or herbs when they are sick.

Obliv­i­ous to what the vac­cines are for, No­razri­ana only took her 18-month-old son to be vac­ci­nated since her hus­band was look­ing af­ter their el­dest child.

Com­mu­nity leader Yakub Bulda says the free im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme is needed in the com­mu­nity, where the ma­jor­ity are Filipino refugees. There are also a small num­ber of other for­eign­ers in­clud­ing Pak­ista­nis, who are mon­i­tored by the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, as well as lo­cals.

“Be­sides vac­cine-re­lated cases, there are peo­ple with other con­ta­gious dis­eases that need at­ten­tion in this area. This is why we are grate­ful for such cam­paigns,” he says. Kota Kinabalu District Health Of­fi­cer Dr Jiloris Dony said the health vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign was launched two years ago fol­low­ing an in­crease in mor­tal­ity rate among un­vac­ci­nated chil­dren.

In the Kota Kinabalu area, there are sev­eral hotspots in Telipok, Luyang, Inanam and Meng­gatal with low im­mu­ni­sa­tion cov­er­age, he says.

“Be­fore we carry out the cam­paign at any lo­cal­ity, it takes about three months to as­cer­tain low cov­er­age im­mu­ni­sa­tion and num­ber of chil­dren who are not vac­ci­nated.”

Dr Jiloris says the cam­paign also aims to ed­u­cate the pub­lic on the im­por­tance of vac­ci­na­tion and en­cour­age them to go to health clin­ics.

Fam­ily medicine spe­cial­ist Dr Eleza Naze­fah Rosli, who is based at Telipok health clinic, says it is im­por­tant to vac­ci­nate as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble to cre­ate herd im­mu­nity.

It will help those who can­not be vac­ci­nated due to con­di­tions such as cancer, im­muno­sup­pres­sive ill­nesses and pre­ma­ture ba­bies.

Sabah Health di­rec­tor Datuk Dr Christina Rundi says be­tween 2016 and 2017, there were 27 deaths re­lated to un­vac­ci­nated chil­dren.

Last year, there were 84 cases where peo­ple re­fused to be vac­ci­nated com­pared to 42 in 2016.

“Among the rea­sons they re­fused to be vac­ci­nated were fear of po­ten­tial ad­verse ef­fects, mis­tak­enly think­ing the vac­cines con­tain porcine ge­la­tine, be­lief in al­ter­na­tive treat­ments as well so­cial me­dia and fam­ily in­flu­ences,” she says.

In Malaysia, chil­dren are re­quired to go through at least nine sched­uled vac­ci­na­tions for pre­ventable dis­eases in the first 18 months af­ter birth.

Among the pre­ventable dis­eases are tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, diph­te­ria, tetanus, per­tus­sis (whoop­ing cough), po­lio, Hae­mophilus In­fluenza type B, hep­ati­tis, measles, mumps and rubella.

It is im­por­tant to vac­ci­nate as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble to cre­ate herd im­mu­nity. Dr Eleza Naze­fah Rosli

Health per­son­nel from Telipok Health Clinic ex­plain­ing the pro­gramme to the moth­ers from Telipok Refugee Set­tle­ment.

As­mariah brought five of her chil­dren for im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

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