A two-year-old child passed away in Miri Hospital, Sarawak, from diphtheria in March 2018. An investigation by the Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia revealed that the parents chose to not have her immunised against diphtheria due to concerns about the halal nature of vaccine.
According to the MOH, there were 32 cases of diphtheria – including seven deaths – reported throughout the country last year. Out of those cases, 75% were unvaccinated, most of them children.
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah advised that children should be administered with the ‘five-in-one’ injection at two, three and five months, including a booster at 18 months.
Vaccines are Halal
The technical committee chairman of vaccine advocacy programme Immunise4Life, Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, said the anti-vaccine sentiment has created confusion and distrust towards vaccination. “There is nothing in Islam or any other religion that says you cannot give vaccinations to children. The only reason we are seeing diphtheria cases is not because vaccine has failed, but because parents do not want their children to take the vaccine.”
The MOH urged Muslim parents to not doubt the halal status of vaccines.
The National Fatwa Council has also issued a statement that vaccines provided by the government are all halal. Health Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya advised Muslim parents to trust the data provided by experts instead of false information circulated on social media.
“In Malaysia, there is only one vaccine which contains porcine DNA – the rotavirus vaccine. The government does not buy this vaccine. It is only available in private clinics to treat severe diarrhoea,” he added.
Dr Zulkifli encouraged the use of reliable resources to retrieve information on immunisation, such as Immunise4Life website (www.ifl.my) and MYVaksinBaby app.