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'Lack of info halted vaccine drive'

By Renuka Singh

Gynaecologist Dr Sherene Kalloo, who was instrumental in bringing the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations into the country is "very upset" by the suspension of the programme across primary schools.

One week after being launched, the programme has been shelved following opposition by the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) to the cervical cancer preventative vaccine being administered to young girls.

But while the vaccine is still being administered at clinics, Kalloo is blaming a lack of proper information for the cessation of the vaccinations at the school level and hopes that with the correct information, the programme would be restarted.

"We are trying to be as positive as possible," Kalloo said.

"There is a lot of misinformation and that may have triggered the need for the boards to stop the vaccine," she said.

She urged parents, students and the members of the denominational boards to get more information from the correct sources and not scare themselves with incorrect data.

Kalloo said with the proper information, parents would know that the injection cannot give rise to increased promiscuity.

"Students cannot now say that they can have sex because they cannot get HPV. The vaccine does not prevent against any sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy. I don't see how protection against the second most common cancer in women in Trinidad and Tobago will trigger promiscuity," she said.

Kalloo said she and the other doctors met with stakeholders over the past nine months before going ahead with the implementation of the vaccinations in schools.

She said the CEBM opposition did not remove the vaccination, it simply made it more inaccessible for the same vulnerable section of society most prone to the disease.

But not all denominational boards are against the vaccines.

Head of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA), Yacoob Ali, said yesterday they did not have a problem with the vaccination in their schools.

"If the vaccinations are proven to be safe and reliable then ASJA will have no objections, but it must be done with the consent of the parents," he said in a telephone interview.

General secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Sat Maharaj, said he too had no problem with the vaccinations in the schools under the SDMS banner.

"We are not concerned about the vaccinations per se. If the vaccinations have been approved by the relevant Regional Health Authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO), we have no qualms about it," he said.

The CEBM yesterday stated that it was concerned that the Ministry of Health "intervened into the schools without consultation".

Their other issue was that they did not receive any invitation to the sensitisation meetings and they first learned about the vaccinations in the media.

See Page 11.

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