Health Minister implores public to get vaccinated amidst measles scare

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Health Minister, Molwyn Joseph implored the people of Antigua and Barbuda get vaccinated after a measles scare in a neighboring island.

His comments came after the Church of Scientology cruise ship, Freewinds, was quarantined in St. Lucia last Tuesday after a staff member came down with a suspected case of the measles.

The cruise ship was expected to travel later this month to Antigua and Barbuda with various fundraisers planned onboard, but its scheduled call to the island has since been cancelled in the wake of the story.

Joseph, at a press conference on Tuesday, said that only 5 percent of children on the island may not been vaccinated and he wants to have all children to be vaccinated.

“We have a vaccination program in Antigua and Barbuda that is very effective. Conservatively, 95 percent of all our children get vaccinated but I believe that we may be missing 2 percent. I have asked the health authorities to find that 2 percent,” he said, adding that some parents may not believe in vaccination and that the Ministry would like to have a discussion with them about the importance of vaccination.

Joseph said that there was an established protocol at the various ports of entry to prevent any spread of measles or any other disease by travellers.

“There is an established protocol in place, guided by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and by the World Health Organization (WHO). We have had incidents of this nature before; it is not only what comes from ships, but what comes from planes.

“For personnel at our borders —the airport and the seaport—there is a programme to ensure that they are vaccinated and protected,” he said.

Persons who received vaccination from a young age, would be less at risk for contracting certain diseases, including measles.

According to Dr. Shivon Belle Jarvis, a pediatrician within the Ministry of Health, although there is global debate about making vaccination a legal requirement, people deserve the freedom of choice.

She said that, in absence of the requirement, education is key to encouraging persons to get vaccinated.

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