Clean water and vaccines are the most important innovations in reducing the burden of infectious diseases.
While clean water is considered a basic right, vaccines are not.
It is disheartening to see parents not vaccinating their children because of the cost ("Many young children not getting vaccine 'due to cost' "; last Saturday). This may be a case of "penny wise, pound foolish".
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which cause pneumonia, blood sepsis, meningitis, and sinus and middle ear infections.
Studies conducted in countries with a good uptake of the vaccine have demonstrated a dramatic decline in invasive diseases caused by this organism in children, with a carry-over effect extending to the unvaccinated population, including the elderly.
Scientific data has shown that in addition to reducing invasive diseases, these vaccines reduce the incidence of pneumonia, and ear and sinus infections.
These contribute to morbidity, absenteeism from school and work, and hence economic loss.
Vaccination can reduce health-care costs on the national scale.
The Government has made the right decision to allow parents to pay for immunisations via Medisave or the Baby Bonus scheme. However, more can be done.
It is time to consider free pneumococcal vaccination.
There is a precedent: Singapore citizens get free vaccinations for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and Haemophilus influenzae Type B. This led to an improved uptake.
No child should be deprived of life-saving vaccinations. In this case, the carry-over effect will lead to better health for our people. Let us be bold and invest in the young.
Leong Hoe Nam (Dr)
Straits Times Reader
This article was first published on February 10, 2015.
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