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School vaccination programme stopped
The controversial school Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) programme has been stopped with immediate effect. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan announced this yesterday in responding to objections about the programme by the Catholic Board of Education.
“The school vaccination programme has been stopped. I am not forcing anybody to do this against their will. People are free to take the vaccine,” he insisted yesterday. Khan said the programme will now be administered in the public health facilities across T&T.
He said a full-page advertisement would be placed in the newspapers to give all the details of the government initiative. Khan insisted the vaccine was being given with the signed approval of parents. The voluntary HPV school vaccination programme was launched at Sacred Heart Girls’ RC School last Wednesday.
Cabinet approved the programme on June last year. And Khan told reporters then the initiative was due to begin in November. Yesterday, he said the HPV school vaccination national awareness campaign took place in November and December last year.
Khan said the Catholic Board did not attend the consultations but the Inter-Religious Organisation and the National Parent/Teacher Association were among the organisations which attended and supported the voluntary programme.
Meanwhile, IRO president Bro Harripersad Maharaj said the matter had not been discussed by members as yet. He said next week’s meeting of the IRO will discuss the HPV vaccine. Khan said yesterday he was surprised by the objections being raised by the Catholic Board. He said the programme was being stopped in the wake of the objections.
The minister said the programme was “entirely voluntary” and approval had to be granted by parents for the vaccine to be administered to pre-pubescent girls. Last year, at a post-Cabinet news conference, Khan said there was a higher possibility of the vaccine preventing cervical cancer when administered to girls who were not yet sexually active.
He said the move would be controversial, but there was sufficient information available to convince parents and the girls of the need to take the vaccine. Khan said the benefits of taking it “far outweigh its side effects.” The vaccine is costing the Government about $6 million and is being acquired with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Khan said HPV was a “novel and new idea” from his ministry which should result in a reduction in the incidence of cancer of the cervix in the next ten years.
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