By Bibi Khatoon
Parents who do not want their children to receive the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine are required to sign a document to ‘opt out’, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud.
“It’s not a case where you have to give consent for each dose of the HPV administered, you can decide…that you don’t want your child to have the vaccine and you will then sign off, otherwise, we will assume that you have agreed,” Dr. Persaud told the media on the sidelines of an event held at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown Tuesday morning.
Some parents have taken to social media to complain about their children being given the vaccine without their consent and are being forced to take it.
However, the CMO said the Ministry of Public Health has not received any such reports.
“If there is a signed document to say that you don’t want your child to be given the vaccine, the vaccine will not be given. I have not had any report of anyone being given an HPV vaccine without any of the proper procedures applied,” he told the media.
Dr. Persaud admitted that the HPV campaign in schools previously required consent from the parents but this was revised.
“When we revised the program, we found that was quite a barrier to persons accessing; and a lot of parents even came in and say this is an essential vaccine [and] I am unable to come to sign a paper but my child needs this vaccine…They even bring it over as if we’re denying to give the child the vaccine because of that,” the CMO explained.
As such, a decision was made at the policy level “to switch the approach where we would now have an opt-out process.”
Via this process, health personnel at each school are required to meet with the Parent Teacher’s Associations (PTA) and inform them of the vaccine and outline to them the process by which they can opt out.
It is unclear at this point whether those meetings are being held or whether parents are aware of the ‘opt out’ approach.
Additionally, the Chief Medical Officer said forms and brochures are supposed to be distributed to parents at the PTA meetings.
The HPV vaccine is administered to girls between the ages of 9 and 13 to prevent infection by certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus- thereby preventing Genital Warts and most cases of Cervical and anogenital cancers later in life.
Girls were the first to start receiving the vaccines in 2012.
The campaign by the Ministries of Public Health and Education was relaunched in Public and private schools in 2017 targeting 36,000 girls.
This year, the Ministries expanded the program to include boys and increased the age to 16 years.
Some concerns were raised in 2017 that persons suffer from side effects including side pain, sore throat, swelling, itching, fever, headaches, nausea, tiredness, joint or muscle pain vomiting, insomnia (lack of sleep) runny or stuffy nose or tooth pain.
However, the Ministry had noted that “there were no adverse effects from the administration of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in Guyana, despite publicly-voiced fears.”
It was noted that the HPV virus also places males at risk of other forms of cancer.