Parents' concerns over HPV vaccine are valid
While gynaecologic oncologist Dr Matthew Taylor does not believe that some of the negative symptoms attributed to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine are true, he feels that the Government erred in not addressing some of the concerns raised by parents when the vaccine was introduced in secondary schools last year.
Taylor believes that this was one of the reasons for the low uptake of the first dose of the HPV vaccine administered last October. The national vaccination programme was targeted at grade-seven girls in an effort to minimise their risks of cervical cancer. However, less than half of the targeted population received the vaccine.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
"We live in a world today where people have access to a lot of information that is not necessarily true, so there is a lot of information on the Internet out there," he said.
Taylor noted that the intended beneficiaries of the national programme can easily go online to do their research and will, undoubtedly, come across pictures showing neurological diseases and other problems allegedly associated with the HPV vaccine.
"These things are out there, and I think what happened when these vaccines came out, was that the Government wasn't upfront in saying, 'Well there are concerns about it'," he said.
"You have to address the concerns, and they are valid concerns," he added.
"The concerns might be unfounded because the investigations and the studies don't prove that there is any association with these things, but nonetheless, the information is out there and people will take the information they get and they will run with it, and I think that is a fair thing to do," noted Taylor.
While she endorses the programme, executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society Yulit Gordon agrees that the limited information given to parents about the vaccine was the primary reason for the low uptake.
"In the absence of a national education campaign, parents took the decision not to participate because they didn't have a full understanding about HPV itself and how it affects their children and how the vaccine would benefit their children," she said.