The Vaccine Injection Programme organised by non-governmental organisation Tzu Chi (Sandakan branch) in collaboration with the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Kampung Mangkalinau here today. Pic by NSTP/POLIANA RONNIE SIDOM

SANDAKAN: "Vaccination is important, but we simply can't afford it."

That was the reply given by Nursiah Ayan, 19, and her mother, Norlidah Hamid, 35, when asked about the importance of vaccination to prevent diseases.

Both were present at the Vaccine Injection Programme organised by non-governmental organisation Tzu Chi (Sandakan branch) in collaboration with the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Kampung Mangkalinau here today.

Nursiah, who had taken her three-month-old son for vaccination, said she gave birth at home with the help of a village midwife because she had no identification documents, and she was unable to afford expensive medical fees.

She said her husband was only a construction worker and they had never been vaccinated due to poverty and absence of proper documents.

"My husband has no fixed income. We got to know about the importance of vaccines to prevent diseases through the Tzu Chi programme held in our village last year.

"Many children here have been vaccinated through the free programme. We were unable to get it done at the hospital because of the high fees,"she said.

Norlidah had also taken Nursiah's six siblings aged 10 months to six years old, to get the free vaccination which started at 9am.

Norlidah said of her 12 children only two were vaccinated because they were born at a government hospital.

"Getting vaccination at government hospitals is expensive. People like us don't have identification documents and marriage certificates. There's a lot to pay if we deliver at government hospitals.

"Around 2003, the cost of delivery at government hospitals for people without identification was more than RM900. There's no way we could afford it, what more getting vaccination for the baby, "she said.

Erma Ammek, 32, a mother of three, also gave the same excuse of poverty and having no citizenship, which caused her to skip vaccination for her children aged one to six years old.

"We know the importance of vaccines, but foreigners like us just cannot afford to get them from hospitals or private clinics," she added.