Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Ministry to roll out HPV vaccine amid backlash

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Tufton

Despite public backlash and fears about the the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) to be introduced to young girls, the health ministry said vaccines will be administered in schools across the island on Monday.

The vaccine is expected to assist in preventing cervical cancer in Jamaica and will be targeting girls in grade seven. The estimated target based on the 2016 entry data from the education ministry is 22,338.

Dr Melody Ennis, acting director of Family Health Services at the ministry of health, who addressed a media forum held at the Pan American Health Organisation offices in St Andrew yesterday, indicated that thorough investigations and checks were done to ensure that there was no detrimental impact.

"People are wondering if this will be an avenue to promote sexual promiscuity, and we have heard a mixture of concerns as we conducted some focus groups discussions with parents and girls across the island. So we have an idea of the issues, but we have alleviated most, if not all of the fears," she said.

Ennis warned, however, that the vaccine should not be seen as a replacement for cervical screening, indicating that Pap smears are still important. She stressed that it is critical that everything is done to protect young women from an early age.

... Not using girls as guinea pigs - Tufton

Dr Melody Ennis, acting director of Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health, is pointing out that there is little cause for concern about the human papillomavirus vaccine, also known as HPV. On Monday, the ministry will be administering the vaccine to female students in schools across Jamaica.

"Adverse effects are very mild. You are going to get a little redness, you are gonna get some swelling, you are going to get fever, possibly, but no severe reactions have been identified. It's not a case where students are going to be in long lines and persons just stick them, we have made special provisions. They must be seated, they must be observed for at least 15 minutes, and efforts must be made to ensure that they don't fall," she said yesterday at a media forum at the Pan American Health Organisation offices in St Andrew.

Health minister Dr Christopher Tufton also endorsed the initiative, saying that even though persons have called for his resignation, he is confident that the programme is a signal of breakthroughs in the health sector.

"The ministry is not going to embark on anything that will put the population at risk - certainly not our young girls. This is not a trial-and-error programme and we are not using our people as guinea pigs. We are not trying to prove anything to the world, population or any pharmaceutical company or big-money interest. It is a tried and proven approach and a science that is intended to make our population healthy as it relates to the risk of cervical cancer," he charged.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com