Friday, October 09, 2009

Pneumococcal Vaccine slated to be in the National Immunization Program

You might have read in the news that the Pneumococcal Vaccine will be added into the National Immunization program soon. Health Minister Khaw made this surprise announcement in Parliament last month.

I say "surprise" because having been part of a group of doctors that have been rallying for its inclusion, this announcement still seemed quite far off at the beginning of this year. And when Minister Khaw made the announcement in response to MP Fatimah Latiff, everyone was quite taken aback. But whatever it may be, we are all happy that the Ministry of Health has eventually made the decision to join a long list of developed nations around the world to include this into their immunization program.

So why is this vaccine important? Well, in short, pneumococcal disease forms the biggest proportion of vaccine preventable disease in the world. Despite the introduction of the vaccine, there are still proportionately more people suffering from this disease compared to other vaccine preventable diseases.

However, rather than providing it free for Singaporean children, the minister has announced that he will be allowing parents to pay for it from their Medisave account. Currently, these vaccines can also be paid from the Baby Bonus account.

But please don't wait for the govenment to make it compulsory before vaccinating your child. Pneumococcal disease is most devastating in babies less than 2 years of age. I have written about one mother's ordeal in an earlier post, so this is not something that you should allow price or government legislation to dictate whether you give the vaccine to your child. It is recommended that babies start the vaccination at 2 months of age in order to gain the most benefit from the vaccine. By starting the vaccine early, you have the opportunity to prevent the bug from colonizing the child's nose and throat. Some of us already carry the bugs in our nose and throat and most of the time it lies domant. However, one day it might just become aggressive and start attacking the body's organs. So preventing the bug from colonizing the nose and throat is an important aspect of preventing the disease.

I just returned from giving a talk on Pnuemococcal disease prevention to the Polyclinic Doctors and Nurses and found out that the retail price for the vaccine at the Polyclinic is $170 plus a $4 injection fee. Because I feel strongly that all babies should get the vaccination, our clinic has packages which work out to $155 per jab for babies in their first year of life who require 3 to 4 jabs. For those in the 2nd year of life, the jabs are $170 nett and we waive any consultation or injection fees. At the present moment these can be paid with the Baby Bonus card. I have been asked many times why we are able to charge less than the polyclinic and the answer is simply that we want to encourage parents to give the jabs early so we lower our margins to make it easier for families to protect their children.

So since it is going to be compulsory to protect your child from Pneumococcal Disease, do consider to do it now rather than wait for MOH to announce it later. Early prevention is very important.

Link to news article on the announcement by Minister Khaw
Link to my previous articles on Pneumococcal Disease


Viv said...

Thanks Dr Tay, for being the doctor who treats patient with "a heart". Kudos to U! We need more doctors like U!!

My heart goes out to the mom who lost her son...

Dee said...

Hi Dr Tay, I'm doing a school project about what is the immunization schedule recommended by the S'pore government and my group found the schedule is for 9 diseases (MMR, DPT, Hep B, Polio & BCG) and we would like to confirm with someone from the healthcare profession whether this is correct.

"Optional" vaccines like HPV, flu, chickenpox, etc are encouraged to have but not made compulsory by the government, right?

We were also puzzled why there is only a compulsory schedule for children. What about teens, adults and the elderly? There's no compulsory schedule for them?

Thank you for your time.

Dr Leslie said...

If you come to the clinic one of this mornings, I can help you with it.

Joanne said...

Hi Dr Tay

Any discount for twins?