Only over one-third Malaysians polled say childhood vaccines have zero or low risk, but over half believe in its benefits

Ida Lim
·4-min read
A relatively low figure of 32 per cent Malaysian respondents believe there is little or zero risk of side effects from MMR vaccines, in comparison to the median of 55 per cent for 20 countries including Malaysia that were surveyed. — Reuters pic
A relatively low figure of 32 per cent Malaysian respondents believe there is little or zero risk of side effects from MMR vaccines, in comparison to the median of 55 per cent for 20 countries including Malaysia that were surveyed. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — Just around one-third of Malaysians in a recent international science survey perceive childhood vaccines as having little or no risk, while about half of them consider such vaccines to have high preventive health benefits.

In the latest results of a Pew Research Center survey released last month, a total of 1,650 Malaysian respondents were asked for their views on childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Out of 1,650 respondents in Malaysia, 27 per cent rated MMR vaccines as having a high risk of side effects, followed by 40 per cent who said there was a medium risk, 16 per cent each who said there is low risk or no risk at all.

This means that collectively, a relatively low figure of 32 per cent Malaysian respondents believe there is little or zero risk of side effects from MMR vaccines, in comparison to the median of 55 per cent for 20 countries including Malaysia that were surveyed.

As for the preventive health benefits of MMR vaccine, 52 per cent said there is high preventive health benefit, 34 per cent said there is medium benefit, eight per cent said such vaccines have low benefit and six per cent said there are no benefits at all.

The survey in Malaysia was conducted among 1,650 adults aged 18 and above through interviews in Malay, Chinese, or English language via phone calls from October 12 to November 22, 2019, as part of the International Science Survey 2019-2020.

When compared to 19 other countries in the same survey conducted from October 2019 to March 2020, Malaysia’s respondents are among countries that are least likely to rate the preventive health benefits of childhood vaccines as high, and are also at the same time among those least likely to rate the risk of side effects from such vaccines to be low.

Here’s how Malaysia compared to the other 19 nations, when it comes to views on childhood vaccines:

The Pew Research Center report noted that public health experts have often highlighted vaccines as one of the most important tools to control infectious diseases from spreading, but with widespread access and use of vaccines according to the recommended schedule crucial for vaccines to be effective for such purposes.

According to the results of the same survey, most of the 20 countries surveyed showed a pattern of respondents with more education having a greater tendency to rate childhood vaccines with higher preventive health benefits and lower risk of side effects, as compared to those with less education.

In Malaysia, for example, when the responses of respondents are examined according to education levels, 50 per cent of those with less education or up to secondary school view childhood vaccines as having high preventive health benefits as opposed to a comparatively higher figure of 63 per cent among those with more education or education above secondary school levels.

Again when it comes to belief that such childhood vaccines carry little or no risk, 30 per cent among respondents in Malaysia with less education held such a belief, while 43 per cent among those with higher education levels in Malaysia believed so.

Among those who had studied beyond secondary school levels, exposure to science training also affects how they view childhood vaccines, with only 36 per cent of those in Malaysia who had completed zero to two science courses saying that it had little or no risk, as compared to 56 per cent among those who had completed at least three science courses.

More info about MMR

Malaysia’s Health Ministry has prepared detailed explanations about the virus-caused infectious diseases of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), as well as the risk of serious complications that can occur from such diseases and even a 1-in-1000 chance of death for measles.

In comparison, the typical side effects of injecting a MMR vaccine is relatively mild such as rashes, fever, or pain and swelling at the injection spot, while febrile seizures are a rare possible side-effect.

The Health Ministry had also provided detailed explanation on vaccines while also noting that vaccines to protect children from infections such as measles, mumps and rubella are provided free under the National Immunisation Programme, and had also shared views from local Islamic authorities that says vaccination for diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella is allowed.

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