Well over 1,000 of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines have been administered in Antigua and Barbuda since the launch of the controversial programme two months ago.
Health authorities are also reporting that there have been no adverse effects – a situation which they will continue to monitor. The programme, which was launched in July 2018 and targets children ages nine to 13, is intended to reduce the risk of cancers caused by the HPV virus.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas told reporters on Wednesday that 528 dosages of the vaccine were administered in July, while 502 were given in August.
She also revealed that parents and guardians are warming up to the programme. Prior to the start of the initiative several parents and medical practitioners called on the government to scrap the planned implementation.
“We have been doing a number of talks and distributing fliers to different audiences and parent meetings when they go to register their children. Over the summer there were a number of camps and we used that opportunity to engage with parents and they have been receptive,” Dr. Sealey-Thomas said.
Participation in the HPV vaccination programme is voluntary and is administered free of charge at most of the community health centres in the country.
Boys and girls, nine to 13 years old, make up the primary target group for the vaccine so that their bodies will best develop a formidable defense against the HPV virus. However, health authorities are also recommending it for young men
and women up to 26 years of age.
According to a post on the website of the Ministry of Health, the vaccine works best if it is given before exposure to HPV – that is, before sexual activity commences – although HPV can also be transmitted through skin to skin contact, kissing, contaminated objects such as towels, sheets, clothing, floors and gym equipment.