Campbell calls for public education on HPV vaccine
Shadow Minister for Health Dayton Campbell
Newly appointed Opposition Shadow Minister of Health, Dr Dayton Campbell is calling for the urgent implementation of a public education programme ahead of administering of the HPV vaccine to the at-risk population, including children.
The Health Ministry in a release has stated that as of Monday it will start administering the HPV vaccine to girls in grade seven. According to health officials the move is to guard against HPV, which is a sexually transmitted virus spread through sexual contact from one person to the next.
According to Campbell, the vaccine has been linked to fainting spells and other side effects, and may not be best administered in the school environment without appropriate measures in place for monitoring.
Campbell said while the programme may be beneficial in the short and long term as there will likely be less adverse findings on pap smears and fewer cases of cancers, the lack of proper public health education would leave many Jamaicans confused and give cause to heightened anxiety.
“What specific measures have been put in place for monitoring after vaccination? I would like to know if the Ministry of Health has determined to make this vaccine mandatory for all females in grade 7? Are grade 7 students targeted in the first instance with a planned rollout in other age groups? Although the available vaccines can be given from age 9, the age of first sexual contact in Jamaica for females is around 13 to 14 years of age; therefore, why didn’t the health authorities set a recommended age of 11 to 12 years to administer the vaccine?” Dr. Campbell asks.
The medical doctor noted that there is a need for a comprehensive public health education programme to re-enforce the message that abstinence and safe sex practices are the mainstay in preventing STIs.
There is also the concern of risk compensation in students who may have a false sense of security of full protection and thus engage in risky sexual practices. There is a moral consideration that must be balanced with the proposed benefits.
“There is a clear observation that part of the fight against HPV and cancers would include a vaccination program for boys as well. Will the programme therefore include boys and if not , why not?”
“These questions are of the utmost importance,” Campbell said.