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Vaccine can save children

HIV researcher on HPV controversy
Monday, February 3, 2014
Robert Gallo

ST GEORGE’S—Internationally-renowned biomedical researcher and HIV-1 pioneer Dr Robert Gallo has described as “complete nonsense” ongoing claims about the harmful effects of vaccines. Gallo expressed surprise that T&T had been a staging-point last year for the debate over administering the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to schoolgirls. He told the T&T Guardian in an interview in Grenada last Thursday: “If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to have serious, serious problems.


He added, “The risk of any vaccine is almost nothing. “It is an enormous mistake not to vaccinate the population for the obvious diseases. “The spread of rumours (about the dangers of vaccines) is based on ignorance or based on over-suspiciousness of things, or trying to attribute some illness they saw in a child...they want to blame something.” There is no evidence that vaccines are doing damage to children, Gallo said. “But there is an infinite amount of evidence, overwhelming evidence, that it saves them.”


The Catholic Education Board of Management and other groups had initially resisted an attempt by the Ministry of Health a year ago to introduce the HPV vaccination programme among pubescent girls in the school system. As a result, the Government suspended the programme, only to reintroduce it in September following a change of heart by earlier opponents. The programme also suffered from the unavailability of the vaccine at health centres throughout the country, but the drug is now said to be available on demand.


 Gallo and other experts were in Grenada for a virology workshop for Caribbean journalists being facilitated by the St George’s University. Widely recognised for his work in identifying the HIV virus, Gallo said attention also needs to be paid to “emerging viruses since 1980.” He pointed to the Chikungunya virus—a debilitating mosquito-borne disease said to have originated in Africa—that has already been seen in Dominica and St Maarten in the Caribbean.


Grenada’s health minister, Dr Clarisse Modeste-Cowen, announced at the workshop that Grenada had launched a massive “clean-up campaign” to reduce the incidence of mosquito infestations throughout the island. Chikungunya is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a major carrier of dengue fever.


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