Health Ministry to strategize implementation on pneumococcal vaccine

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CYBERJAYA (Oct 14): The Health Ministry is committed to kick-start the pneumococcal vaccination for children next year, with the allocation of RM60 million proposed under the Budget 2020, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad. 

"We have to look into the amount we are given. We must strategize how best we can get it. We have calculated on what is reasonable and possible with that budget," he told reporters after launching the Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) Digital Healthcare Cluster here today.

Asked whether there was any plan to make vaccination compulsory, Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry had looked into the matter and would make a final decision on it.

He said the Health Ministry's vision was to see every child to be vaccinated and to achieve the 95 per cent vaccination rate.

"Ideally we want to have that and reach the unreached group before making it compulsory. There are pockets of community underserved in remote area and we want to address it first," he said.

Elaborating on the pneumococcal vaccination programme, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there was a need to pre-prioritise and pre-negotiate the pricing.

"Looking into the volume, we can negotiate with respective companies to bring down volume, prioritise which group of patients for example the high-risk group before venturing into the National Immunisation Plan," he said.

He said the programme was likely to start in the first quarter of next year depending on the negotiation process, while not compromising on the quality.

Pneumococcal diseases are caused by a bacterium called streptococcus pneumoniae, which can bring different types of serious infections and most commonly occur among the very young, the elderly and those who have chronic medical conditions.

These include lung infections/inflammation (pneumonia), meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord or brain), sepsis (an infection in the blood), sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) and otitis media (middle ear infection).

On another development, Dr Dzulkefly said the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system could start in the middle of next year at public hospitals and clinics.

An allocation of RM31 million announced in Budget 2020 for upgrading and maintenance of information and communication technology services will include a pilot project for hospital electronic medical records.

"We would like to see a system that is interoperable," he said, adding that time and manual efforts to access patient information would be reduced with system efficiency in place.

"Environmentally friendly too, EMRs also allow patient information to be shared quickly and easily amongst various touch points in the healthcare system.

"For example, patient records can be shared between private clinics to hospitals, and even to post-care practitioners such as physiotherapists, something which was massively inhibited by a lengthy and cumbersome process before," he said.

Dr Dzulkefly said the accuracy of EMR and articial intelligence (AI) could massively impact the efficiency of public hospitals in Malaysia, from scheduling, to consultations, diagnoses, and medication, leading to less congestion in public hospitals.

"This, in turn, can lead to the impact of freeing up resources towards making healthcare more affordable or accessible, as diagnosis and follow-up consultation will be made more efficient through the use of AI and EMR in anticipating and calculating the needs of individual patients " he said. — Bernama