On making vaccination compulsory
Statement by Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, 1 March 2019 - The reappearance of life threatening preventable communicable diseases, such as recent cases in Malaysia of measles and diphtheria, and the escalating number of parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children is extremely concerning.
No child should be blamed for not being vaccinated. Preventing an unvaccinated child from going to school is a violation of their right to access education.
UNICEF's position is that if children are denied access to school, then the government has a duty to ensure there are provisions for these children to receive an education. The government needs to consider the consequences of not allowing unvaccinated children to school on their overall wellbeing.
Vaccinating every child is critical. Not vaccinating your child puts others at risk. The government of Malaysia is right in giving importance to vaccination of all children. However mandatory laws are not the best way to do this. UNICEF’s experience shows that there is little evidence to show that mandatory laws improve vaccination coverage.
There are better, more effective approaches to foster and sustain demand for immunization. We need to understand why parents are reluctant to vaccinate and guide them with the right information and targeted campaigns. There is also a need to constantly engage healthcare providers for improved communication with clients.
A child’s best interest is served when parents and caregivers act to protect them from infectious diseases with vaccination based on informed decision or prompted by non-coercive measures and interventions. Health workers both at the public and private health facilities should continue their efforts to ensure that every child in every community is reached with lifesaving vaccines.
Malaysia, as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is equally mandated to give children the best health care and education possible.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.