About 40% of children aged 2 and below do not receive full pneumococcal vaccines because parents find the costs too expensive, according to doctors. At a polyclinic, one dose costs around $150 and between $170 and $180 at most general practitioners (GPs).
It is recommended that a child receives three doses before he or she turns 1, which brings the total cost to about $500.
Pneumococcal disease is the leading infectious cause of death in children throughout the world. It is a bacterial infection that starts with high fevers but eventually can lead to pneumonia, mengingitis and other potentially fatal illnessses.
In 2009, the Health Ministry placed the pneumococcal vaccine on its recommended list of vaccinations for children, along vaccines for diphtheria, polio and tetanus. Both diphtheria and measles vaccines are mandatory. That year, the government also allowed the use of Medisave for the vaccine, which saw an increase in the number of children getting the vaccine.
The price of the pneumococcal vaccine was recently placed under scrutiny in a report by Doctors Without Borders last month, which highlighted how the pneumococcal vaccine market operates as a duopoly. Drug companies usually priced their products according to how much a country can afford.
For instance, a dose of the vaccine by drug company Pfizer would cost US$136 in the US, RM200 to RM300 (S$76 – S$114) in Malaysia or US$65 in India.