There is an urgent need for the Health Ministry to explain the rationale of having a mass vaccination against measles as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to eradicate the disease

Press Statement
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Kuala Lumpur, Monday): Measles is a highly contagious disease. We can prevent it by having a single monovalent live attenuated measles vaccine or a multiple vaccine Measles, Mumps, Rubella (German measles) (MMR) vaccine. There is a controversy over the use of MMR. But, the UK and the Malaysian Government maintain that MMR is safe. 

WHO has conducted campaigns with mass vaccination at one year and seven year with the monovalent vaccine or MMR in several countries with success, getting about 95% population immunity. If MMR or monovalent is given at eighth or ninth months old, the immunity is only about 85%. The 15% non-immune herd builds up, resulting in outbreaks of measles.


Yesterday, the Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad mentioned giving MMR at or before nine months old as being too soon. This might be a factor in the rise of the incidence of the disease. This is a reasonable statement. But, the Deputy Minister could have clarified the matter such as by saying that the mass vaccination is using monovalent vaccine from an Indian firm. Instead, he said that the second booster dose was essential as the MMR antibodies might have declined since the first dose.


Hitherto, there is no evidence of serious side-effects from the first and second dose of the monovalent vaccine. If a child is allergic to egg, he or she may react to the vaccine.


The price for a monvalent vaccine is about RM10 and that for MMR is about RM20. The Indian vaccine is much cheaper than RM10. The Health Ministry uses the cheaper vaccine.




* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong