Press Statement

Growing anti-vaccination movement poses a serious threat to public health and safety in Malaysia

 28 June 2016

Lawyers for Liberty views with serious concern the growing opposition to vaccination and the threat it poses to the public health and safety of everyone in the country and even beyond in today’s globalised world. The prevalence of the anti-vaccination movement and the extent to which it has worsened came to prominence following the recent deaths of a seven-year-old girl in Malacca and a two-year-old toddler in Kedah due to diphtheria.

According to the Ministry of Health, refusals to vaccinate children have steadily increased in recent years, from a figure of 470 in 2013 to approximately 1500 in 2015. In the first three months of 2016, about 500 parents had refused vaccinations for their children.

The parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children for whatever misguided religious or personal belief grounds are simply not acceptable as this is clearly no longer an issue of freedom of religion or personal liberties as they are endangering the health and safety of both their children and the public at large.

Proponents of the anti-vaccination movement are biggest offender in this public health crisis and they should be dealt with sternly by the authorities. The public health authorities should order the anti-vaccination proponents to cease propagating their dangerous and unfounded views. If they persist, they can be prosecuted for disobeying the authorities’ lawful orders or for obstructing or impeding the duties of public health officials under section 22 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children should also beware as they could find themselves offending section 31 of the Child Act 2001 for neglecting or exposing their children to harm or even sections 269 and 270 of the Penal Code for acting in a manner likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life.

The public health and safety of everyone in the country, especially children, is a priority and of national concern. We call upon the authorities and all stakeholders to continue working on universal vaccination especially for children, enhancing efforts at public education and correcting misinformation, and implementing laws and policies necessary to make vaccination mandatory for children.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

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