Here in Malaysia, parents are really lucky because we are given an immunisation schedule with important vaccines for kids in Malaysia, whether you’re visiting a government or private hospital or clinic. There’s little to have to figure out on our own…
BUT, if you’re a parent who is currently visiting the government clinics or hospitals, there are two very important vaccines for your kids that are not on the national immunisation schedule, but is EQUALLY essential for your child’s health – the rotavirus and chickenpox vaccines.
According to Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, rotavirus and chickenpox vaccinations are often missed by parents. “Parents don’t even think about these vaccines because they are not listed in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP). However, both vaccines actually play a vital role in keeping children safe and healthy.”
Important Vaccines for Kids in Malaysia: Rotavirus Can Kill
Dr Zulkifli explains: “Rotavirus is very contagious. It’s the leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children aged under 5 years worldwide. Each year, rotavirus kills around 215,000 children globally and accounts for up to 50% of hospital admissions for diarrhoea,.”
He stresses that rotavirus infection can be very dangerous: “An infected child will present symptoms such as fever, vomiting and watery diarrhoea1. The rapid loss of fluid can lead to dehydration. If left untreated, death may occur. Infants are most at risk of becoming dehydrated due to their low body weight.”
“The first infection is most severe and does not lead to permanent immunity. Reinfection can occur at any age, but the subsequent infections will usually be less severe,” he says.
Why Parents Should Avoid Letting Their Kids Get Chickenpox
Like rotavirus, chickenpox is also a viral disease and it is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Dr Zulkifli remarks: “Many parents think that chickenpox is not a big deal besides causing a few spots. However, they are not aware that chickenpox can cause complications or deaths, even in healthy children.
“Annually, there are around 4.2 million cases of severe complications leading to hospitalisation and 4,200 related deaths worldwide. Complications include brain inflammation, bacterial infection of the skin, bloodstream infection and lung infection. Scarring may also occur, especially in older children.”
He continues: “Being highly contagious, chickenpox spreads easily among children, especially in nurseries and pre-schools. A natural infection usually provides lifelong immunity, but parents won’t be able to know in advance how severe the symptoms will be in their children, so it’s really not worth taking the risk.”
Prevention Through A Series Of Important Vaccines For Kids In Malaysia
Dr Zulkifli concludes: “It’s important to take preventive measures to protect children against these two diseases, and one of the ways is through vaccination.”
“I would tell parents not to be intimidated by the two vaccines. Think of both vaccinations as a series, that one leads to the next, since it’s recommended for children to receive the rotavirus vaccine as early as possible after 6 weeks of age, and then the chickenpox vaccine starting from 12 months old,.”
Currently in Malaysia, rotavirus and chickenpox vaccines are only available in private clinics. Pregnant mums should bear this in mind to add to their child’s immunisation schedule as one of the important vaccines for kids in Malaysia. And for parents who have infants below 3 months or kids that are about to reach the age of one, click here to find your nearest clinic and talk to a paediatrician about rotavirus and chickenpox prevention for your child.
Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist. He is currently the Immunise4Life Technical Committee Chairman and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association. Dr Zulkifli was also a past president of the Malaysian Paediatric Association. He previously served as the Head of Paediatrics in a university hospital. He has more than 35 publications in peer-reviewed international and local journals. In 2012, he was given the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician Award by the Asia Pacific Paediatric Association. Recently in 2019, Datuk Zulkifli was awarded the Vaccine Hero Award by Ministry of Health Malaysia.
This article was originally adapted from Immunise2Protect.
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