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Equating non-vaccination with neglect is 'stretching it', says lawyer

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Provisions under the Child Act 2001 cannot be used to punish parents who expose their children to diseases by refusing to vaccinate them, said lawyer Latheefa Koya.

This is contrary to the suggestion by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, who said earlier today that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children could be charged under the law for neglect.

Instead, the Lawyers for Liberty executive director said the government’s next move should be to make vaccination compulsory.

“No! The Child Act 2001 cannot be used to criminalise parents for not vaccinating their child. It falls outside the scope of the offence of neglect.

“You must first make vaccination mandatory before resorting to criminal sanctions. Focus on doing that,” she said through her Twitter account in response to a news report of Yeoh’s comments.

She added that to equate non-vaccination with neglect simply because it could endanger the child would be “stretching” the scope of neglect too far.

“People need to know it’s illegal first,” Latheefa said.

Earlier today, Yeoh said the Child Act provides the government with broad powers to punish parents who neglect their children or expose them to danger.

This includes parents who do not vaccinate their children, whom she said should be charged.

“We can use the Child Act. Let’s start using the law. We don’t have lack of law, we have the lack of using the law when it is needed,” she said, adding that she had urged Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad to look into the matter.

Yesterday, Bernama quoted Dzulkefly as saying that his ministry is prepared to consider a proposal by the Malaysian Paediatric Association to make at least two of the 12 vaccines under the National Immunisation Programme compulsory.

These are vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), and diphtheria.


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