Wed | Oct 18, 2017

HPV vaccinations not postponed - Tufton says Gov't moving ahead with controversial programme for schoolgirls

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton
Minister of Education Ruel Reid
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Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the ministry is firm in its stance not to postpone the administering of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in schools, despite a proposal from Education Minister Ruel Reid that the programme be delayed amid concerns raised by parents and principals.

Reid told The Gleaner yesterday afternoon that he would be proposing to Tufton that the controversial initiative be temporarily halted to allow for greater sensitisation of the programme. His comments came as he clarified an earlier statement where, during a press conference, he said the programme had been postponed.

In the days leading up to the implementation of the exercise on Monday, several principals and parents complained about the lack of consultation from the health ministry.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Tufton said: "We are continuing, but careful to ensure that we work with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to ensure that there is adequate information to parents and guardians and students. This may result in delays from the original schedule for a school, but where this is in place, we will proceed."

 

IN THE DARK

 

Reid had told The Gleaner that many administrators said they were in the dark over the logistics of the programme, as well as the benefits and reasons behind the initiative.

"The challenge I have is that my principals are saying that they need greater sensitisation, and I have to be mindful of that. With respect to the Ministry of Health, we have said we have no difficulty with the initiative, but if it is that the stakeholders, including the principals, are saying they need more information, I have to respond to that. They are looking to me for representation," he said.

"What I am proposing is greater discussion and sensitisation. The schools are complaining and, as minister of education, I must take the view that I wouldn't't be able to support the implementation now, without that communication."

Reid also said it was critical that all parties involved be fully informed and that there are no gaps while the programme is being rolled out.

"My concern is the school administrators who have to facilitate all of this, and the children. I think we need to relook at it. If the view is that the minister is comfortable that all systems are in place, then I have no difficulty. But, from where I sit, I am responding to the concerns raised by stakeholders and I would appeal to my minister to review it to see if adjustments need to be done."

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.

On Monday, 309 students at four high schools received the vaccine during the first day of the programme.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com