[UPDATE: 29/11/2020] So, we managed to get in touch with Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist of Damansara Specialist Hospital, Dato Dr Musa Mohd Nordin to find out more about the vaccine. If you’ve read this article, you can check the update in the article in blue.
Mention the word vaccine jabs and you’re probably reminiscing those days when you get your BCG in Standard 6.
But, as Malaysians, we’re pretty sure you’ve gotten yourself vaccinated even wayyy before that – when you were a baby.
Speaking of vaccinations and babies, the Health Ministry has recently announced that there will be a new vaccine jab for babies born in the year 2020. It’s called the 6-in-1 vaccine and it will be used in stages under the National Implementation Programme (NIP) starting November 2020 (yea, we know we’re kinda late in delivering news #ihatecilisos).
However, as we dug deeper into the story, we realised that this vaccine isn’t exactly… new. In fact…
Malaysia has been using the vaccine since… 2006?!
As it turns out, the 6-in-1 vaccine has been around for quite some time la. The European Union was the first to have the license to use this vaccine as early as the 2000 tho for some odd reason, the license was later withdrawn. And, as of now, it has been used by 49 (some reports stated 97) countries across the world.
As a matter of fact, Malaysia has used this vaccine in 2006 and 2013. But, according to Norleen Mohamed Ali, Senior Principal Assistant Director of Pharmacovigilance at the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), this vaccine was only used in private facilities.
“This vaccine is not new to Malaysia. As of October 2020, there are two 6-in-1 vaccine products registered in Malaysia and their use is increasing every year. Both of these vaccines were used in private health facilities in 2006 and 2013 respectively.” – Norleen, as quoted by Immunise4Life.
Dr Zulkifli Ismail, a Pediatric Cardiologist said that he has given this vaccine in private health facilities for years. The Director of Immunise4Life also added that he supports the Health Ministry’s decision to give this vaccine to Malaysian babies and children. Immunise4Life is an initiative under the Health Ministry, Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy (MSIDC) to basically educate Malaysians about vaccines.
We’ve gotten in touch with Norleen to find out more on why this vaccine is only used under NIP now despite it being used in private facilities since way back but we’ve yet to receive a response from her.
Anyways, how is the 6-in-1 vaccine any different from the vaccine most of us received back then? Under the NIP, the vaccine that Malaysian babies have been receiving all this while (from 2008 till now) was the 5-in-1 vaccine. This means that the jab would protect babies from five diseases like…
This vaccine is normally given to babies in four doses – each at ages 2, 3, 5 and 18 months. On top of that, babies were even given three additional doses of Hepatitis B vaccine at the ages of 1 and 6 months.
Do the math and you’d realise how Malaysian babies, in general (not counting Sarawakian babies – they get an extra jab) had to take a total of SEVEN jabs to protect them from getting infected with six diseases.
But this will soon change when the 6-in-1 vaccine would be made available at the public health facilities. This is because this vaccine would be able to protect babies from all the aforementioned diseases (yes, including Hepatitis B) in just FIVE jabs.
The Health Director-General, Dr Noor Hisham mentioned that the vaccine would be given to babies in four doses similar to the number of doses given for the 5-in-1 vaccine. The only obvious difference in this vaccine would be the number of the Hepatitis B vaccine jabs given to babies.
“In addition, the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given after birth will continue. The previous Hepatitis B vaccine given at one month and six months will no longer be required.” – Noor Hisham, as quoted by The Star.
So, this could only mean one thing – less screaming babies and more happy parents (and babies) cos… babies don’t have to kena cucuk so many times anymore. YAY.
In addition, parents and doctors can focus on more important stuff like the growth of the babies. But just as with any kind of medication…
Parents may wanna monitor their children for any side effects like redness
If you remember getting BCG in Standard 6, then you’d probably remember this…
This is just one out of the many side effects of the 6-in-1 vaccine. Normally, one in 10 babies that have taken this vaccine would experience this type of redness on the injection spot, fever after getting the second or third shot, vomiting, loss of appetite, irritability and, well, crying.
Erm, duh. We didn’t say they won’t be crying at all tho. :\
And, according to the NHS, babies in the UK that have undergone this vaccine also reported seizures and showed allergic reactions. But it’s noteworthy that this is a very, verrrrryyyyyy rare case la. So rare that less than one in 10,000 babies have shown this kinda symptoms.
Back home in Malaysia tho, Dr Zulfkifli mentioned that, throughout his experience in giving shots of this vaccine, he hasn’t seen any serious side effects on the babies that had received this vaccine.
“Other mild side effects include irritation, pain and redness at the injection site. Most babies do not show any immediate reaction.” – Dr Zulkifli to Immunise4Life.
He added that the vaccine is really safe to be used. And that is thanks to the Health Ministry’s thorough and strict procedure in getting a vaccine tested before giving it a greenlight for it to be commercialised.
“In Malaysia, the vaccine must go through a strict and thorough registration process by the Malaysia Drug Control Authority (PBKD), Ministry of Health Malaysia before it can be marketed and used.” – Norleen to Immunise4Life.
And the vaccine can only be used under the NIP once it has been registered under PBKD.
Ok, so far so good. But what if your child kena any of these symptoms? Well, fret not. Norleen mentioned that the NPRA is currently closely monitoring the side effects of the vaccine.
So, if you notice that your child shows any kind of symptoms mentioned earlier, Norleen suggests you to make a report to a health personnel. You can also lodge a report to NPRA directly by clicking here.
So, should Malaysian parents vaccinate their children or not?
While researching this story, we found out that it’s still not compulsory for Malaysian parents to vaccinate their children despite calls by health organisations to make it mandatory for Malaysian children to get vaccinated. We tried getting in touch with the Health Ministry to clarify this when it comes to the 6-in-1 vaccine but we’re still waiting for a response.
So, this would mean, yes, you still have a choice not to vaccinate your children for whatever your reason is. *coughs* We’re looking at anti-vaxxers *coughs*
But we’re not telling you to not vaccinate your children tho. What we’re saying here is that parents have the responsibility to get children those vaccination jabs.
[UPDATE] See, the access to vaccination has improved a lot these days and has brought down the number of deaths related to the six diseases we mentioned earlier. However, Dr Musa also noted that the number of children that receive this vaccine is less than what the World Health Organisation aimed.
He added that the effect of this can be seen in Malaysia when the number of diphtheria cases reported between 2014 and 2017 increased by 16 times! And he believes that this may be caused by those who refused to get their children vaccinated.
“That is why it is important to maintain our coverage rate above 95%, so we build herd immunity and protect those babies and children who cannot be immunized due to various reasons such as too young for jabs, has a cancer, is on chemotherapy or radiotherapy, is taking steroids or has a congenital low immunity problem.” – Dr Musa to CILISOS.
This may also be why he advised parents to adhere to the immunisation schedule properly. In fact, he added that the act of not getting your children vaccinated is itself associated with risks – the risk of getting your children and other people’s children to a disease outbreak. [END OF UPDATE]
The Health Ministry is making the 6-in-1 vaccine, which, according to some blogs, can actually cost you hundreds of ringgit in private facilities, available at public health facilities for… FREE! On top of that, the ministry has also updated the immunisation schedule under the NIP to make it easy for parents to follow.
But if you accidentally missed a jab, Dr Noor Hisham mentioned in a statement that you can bring your child to the nearest public or private health facility to reschedule the immunisation jabs.
And if you any have other questions about the vaccine (that we didn’t cover in this article), you can visit any public health facilities near you or contact the Health Ministry at 03-8883 4042 or 03-8883 4504 on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.