Anti-vaccination campaigns ill-advised – Tufton
Following reports of a low take-up of the influenza vaccine locally, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is pushing back against the anti-vaccine movement, saying that the vaccines are scientifically proven to be safe.
“Our position in Jamaica is that vaccines continue to save many lives. They are a very effective way to prevent certain ailments and are proven to do so, and we encourage take-up of them,” Tufton told journalists following Wednesday’s ceremony for the adoption of the Little London Health Centre, in Westmoreland, as part of the Ministry of Health’s Adopt-a-Clinic Programme.
The Ministry of Health’s Adopt-a-Clinic Programme will see close to 100 of Jamaica’s 320 clinics being adopted for support from local and international partners.
“In recent times, we’ve seen a re-emergence of the anti-vaccine lobby globally,” stated Tufton. “They’re well-resourced, and they use alternative media to promote, in their view, what the negative effects of vaccination represent,” continued Tufton.
“I would only venture to say that it is ill-advised because the evidence supports the safety of vaccines that have been tested and proven, and they are endorsed by the World Health Organization,” added the health minister.
Tufton’s statements follow a report he made to Parliament on Tuesday, indicating that only 2,370 doses of the trivalent influenza vaccine have been administered across Jamaica to date, despite 25,400 doses being distributed throughout the country’s regional health authorities.
Last June, concerns were raised by the Paediatric Association of Jamaica that more parents were joining the anti-vaccination movement, which has swept across the United States of America and sections of Europe.
According to the Immunisation Regulations of 1986, drafted under the Public Health Act of 1974, parents who fail to have their children vaccinated can be prosecuted. Under the act, children are to be vaccinated within one year of birth, and parents who fail to comply can be fined J$500 or spend 30 days in prison.
In the meantime, Tufton admitted that greater public education will be needed to counter the opposition to vaccines.
“In Jamaica, for certain vaccines, we continue to see almost universal coverage, but we cannot be complacent in terms of the pushback, so public information is always going to be very critical. I think a lot of it has to do with public education,” said Tufton.
Supporters of the international anti-vaccine campaign, identified as ‘anti-vaxxers,’ are hesitant or outright opposed to having children receive vaccinations, citing concerns about the safety of vaccines and alleged links to conditions such as autism. The campaign was identified by the World Health Organization in 2019 as one of the top 10 threats to global health.