Health ministry corrects Education minister on HPV vaccine roll-out

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The Health Ministry is rejecting the claim made by Education Minister, Ruel Reid, that the government is postponing its Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, vaccination programme.

The Health Ministry says it's proceeding with the programme, despite a claim to the contrary yesterday by Minister Reid.

It's also emphasizing that portfolio Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has not made any assertion that the programme is being postponed or pulled back.

Once again, Minister Reid - who's also the Information Minister - is at the centre of an episode of public miscommunication. He's caused confusion over the state of the HPV vaccination programme, saying the government was 'pulling back' to allow further sensitization.

At a press conference yesterday at his Heroes Circle Office, in downtown, Kingston, Nationwide News asked Minister Reid if by 'pulling back' he meant the programme was being postponed. He said, 'yes', adding that the government is 'caring' and 'responsive'. But the Director of Family Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Melody Ennis, is contradicting him. She says the Health Ministry is proceeding with the programme.

The rollout of the programme has raised concerns. Many parents and other stakeholders aren't sure of the side effects of the vaccine which is to help prevent cervical cancer in girls.

The vaccination programme is targeting over 22,000 grade 7 girls in schools islandwide. The government has been criticized for not ensuring there was adequate public education ahead of the rollout of the programme on Monday.

The vaccine is not mandatory.

Dr. Ennis says parents will be required to fill out a form stating whether they want their daughters to get the vaccine. She says the Health Ministry will have further dialogue with parents who decide not to allow their daughters to take it.