More could have been done, Tufton says of controversial HPV exercise
Dr Christopher Tufton, health minister, admitted that more could have been done to better inform parents and other stakeholders about the plans to administer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in schools, an initiative that begun yesterday.
The health ministry announced last Friday that more than 20,000 grade seven girls islandwide will be introduced to the vaccine, which is expected to assist in preventing cervical cancer.
Yesterday, Tufton informed The Gleaner that the first day started fairly well, as four high schools were beneficiaries of the vaccine. They are Oberlin in west rural St Andrew, Papine in eastern St Andrew, and Titchfield and Happy Grove in Portland.
He reported that 309 females received the vaccine, while 21 opted out of the process.
"I fully appreciate the need for a proper understanding of the issue, why it is being done and how it will aid the health and well-being of our females and the wider society. I do believe that we need to improve that process and I am prepared to accept that more needs to be done," said Tufton.
"I have actually made the request of the team to spare no effort in making sure that all are fully aware. To be fair, we have been sensitising the stakeholders from as far back as June. A letter was sent to schools through the Ministry of Education, which would have been issued to the principals and parents."
Girls at Westwood High School in Trelawny, Muschett High in St James, and The Queen's School in St Andrew were scheduled to receive the vaccine today, but the minister said that because of logistical issues, it was postponed.
"Generally speaking, the four that were done were successful. There were some that were scheduled today which had to be rescheduled because the nurse wasn't available, and a couple of other reasons," Tufton said.
"Training and sensitisation have taken place. For those persons who don't understand and would want to query and explore further, that option is available to them. I am prepared to say that we need to do more in terms of sensitisation, and I've asked for the public education component to be stepped up. I am going to be part of that both at the level of school and of parents, and, of course, within Parliament tomorrow (today)."