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NPTAJ to discuss HPV vaccine in schools with health ministry

Thursday, October 05, 2017

THE National Parent Teachers' Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) is to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Health later this month, to discuss concerns raised by parents of the approximately 22,500 grade seven female students who are to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday, the association's General Secretary Marcia McCausland-Wilson said her organisation is scheduled to meet with ministry representatives on October 21.

The vaccination programme, which was rolled out on Monday, is an initiative of the Ministry of Health to help prevent cervical cancer in women later in life.

Tufton, who gave an address to Parliament in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, expressed how the vaccine will drastically reduce the number of deaths by cervical cancer in Jamaica.

However, despite the reported benefits of the vaccination, the general secretary said parents are still uneasy about the possible side effects as well as the lack of details on the make-up of the drug.

She told the Observer Tuesday that no meetings have been held with parents to discuss the vaccine programme and as such, many parents say they will not sign the consent form.

Meanwhile, the NPTAJ general secretary said one parent from each high school in the Ministry of Education's Region One is expected to attend the meeting and will be able to relay concerns directly to the ministry team.

McCausland on Tuesday also reminded parents that the vaccine is not mandatory. However, she implored them to read more, conduct more research and be informed until the ministry has provided more information for them.

Also, although the NPTAJ general secretary and former president said she is not in agreement with how the initiative was communicated, she is in support of the move and said: “It is the mandate of the Government to protect us as a people.”

The Observer reported on September 22 that the ministry would be starting an HPV vaccine programme at the beginning of this month, targeting girls in grade seven, between ages nine and 14 years, free of cost. Each girl will need two doses given six months apart for full protection.

The programme is being carried out to protect girls against cervical cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Jamaica, and remains a significant public health concern.

Current estimates indicate that 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and that 185 die from the disease. The majority of the deaths reportedly occur in women between 40 and 64 years of age.

— Dorian Graham