AN OPEN LETTER TO HEALTH MINISTER: A REAL INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC HEALTH
It was 5.37 pm when the Minister of Finance announced in the 2020 Budget that RM60mil had been allocated for the Pneumococcal vaccine to be included into the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).
While it mattered little to the masses who were more focused on whether toll rates or SST will be abolished, that moment in time marked the end of a 15-year struggle for paediatricians and parents who have been demanding for better health protection for all children.
On behalf of all Malaysians, we would like to thank the government for this gift of health.
Having the pneumococcal vaccine included into the NIP means making it available to all children for free. Currently, only families can afford it at private clinics/hospitals, with each jab costing over RM300, amounting to over RM1,000 for the full course.
Once the pneumococcal vaccine is available to all children, we can expect these cumulative benefits over the next five years:
Reduction in Invasive Penumococcus Disease (IPD) cases: 1,920
Reduction in pneumonia cases: 58,677
Reduction in cases of otitis media (middle ear infection): 322,228
That’s not all. A recent study has shown that the government stands to reduce direct and indirect savings in medical costs amounting to US$119.3 million over five years.
Children will have fewer sick days, which mean they will have less interruption in education, and increased productivity among parents when they don’t have to take leave to care for ill children.
And don’t forget that illness is a real financial burden to families. Having one sick child means parents have to skip work, and spend more on transport and food when their daily routine is disrupted. These will affect the overall productivity of the country.
Lastly, the pneumococcal vaccine will protect the vulnerable (such as children with disabilities and those who cannot be vaccinated), as well as the elderly population, with pneumonia being the main cause of death among Malaysians aged above 60.
We thank the honorable Minister of Health for making this his legacy, and fulfilling the election promise of GE14.
Health is the biggest wealth, without which none of the other budget allocations can be utlised.
If we’re serious about providing equality for all, healthcare is where it must begin.
Chan Li Jin
Dato’ Dr Musa Nordin,
Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist,
Damansara Specialist Hospital