Dr Zaliha Mustafa said that the health ministry is allocating RM25 million yearly for Tdap vaccines for expectant mothers in Malaysia, regardless of citizenship.
The Ministry Of Health Malaysia announced yesterday (28 Aug) that the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) combination vaccines will be given to all pregnant women in Malaysia, starting next year.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa explained that this initiative is aimed at reducing the risk of pertussis infection, especially among infants under the age of five months.
Pertussis or whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can infect people of any age but is prevalent in infants and especially deadly for babies under five months.
In her statement, she said that infants under five months are the highest-risk group for contracting pertussis and they can develop pneumonia, encephalopathy and even death from this because their antibodies are not working effectively yet.
Currently, for this year until August 23, 2023, a total of 343 cases of pertussis with 24 deaths have been reported throughout Malaysia.Dr Zaliha Mustafa, Malaysia’s Health Minister
Out of the reported 343 pertussis cases, 173 cases (50.4%) were infants under 5 months old.
Additionally, out of the 24 recorded deaths, 19 deaths occurred among infants under 5 months old.
Vaccinated mothers help both themselves and their babies
Antibodies in Malaysian babies will only reach the optimal protection levels after receiving three doses of pertussis vaccine under the National Immunization Program when they are five months old.
Vaccinating pregnant mothers will provide protection to infants starting from within the womb until they are born.
This will allow them to complete the three primary doses of the pertussis vaccine by the age of five months through antibodies transferred from the mother’s body through the placenta.
The new initiative involves an annual allocation of RM25 million to cover around 500,000 pregnant mothers nationwide yearly.
All mothers, including non-citizens, will receive the free vaccine (single dose) during the second or third trimester of pregnancy (between weeks 13 to 36) at MOH primary healthcare facilities nationwide.
The commencement will start in 2024, as soon as they receive the TDAP vaccine supplies.
Most women weren’t aware of the vaccine, or couldn’t afford it beforehand
Citing Code Blue, Prof. Dr. Jamiyah Hassan a consultant in fetomaternal medicine at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Hospital Al-Sultan Abdullah said that she strongly agrees with MOH’s action plan in addressing the pertussis issue in Malaysia.
As vaccination is the only way to curb the disease, she said that over time, many women are missing maternal vaccinations due to factors such as low awareness, vaccine hesitancy, safety concerns, and financial constraints.
It’s only up to the doctors to advocate for the vaccine and most of them are only offered in private healthcare.
The uptake of the Tdap vaccine in Malaysia is mainly in private healthcare and relies on individual doctors’ recommendations.Prof. Dr. Jamiyah Hassan, Consultant in Fetomaternal Medicine, Hospital Al-Sultan Abdullah
Hence, with MOH’s plan to give free vaccinations to all mothers in Malaysia regardless of citizenship status, she strongly agrees this would help curb the disease.
Furthermore, she hopes that MOH will sustain the momentum in reinforcing the nation’s maternal immunisation strategy.
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