Chief Medical Officer explains ‘opt-out’ option for administering of HPV vaccines

─ Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines are not “forced on children”

─ still applicable after current awareness campaign

─ ministry set to host HPV campaigns every six months


DPI, Guyana, Thursday, March 14, 2019

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud has taken time to explain that the Human Papilloma Virus vaccines are not “forced on children”.

Rather, he said, parents and guardians are first sensitised on the vaccination campaign on all they need to know about the vaccine before given the option to ‘opt-out’.

“We discussed this at the policy level and the decision was made for us to switch the approach where we will now have an opt-out process. So, for example, we encouraged all of the schools to have the health personnel meet with the PTA and inform them of the vaccine and also outline to them the process by which they can opt-out.”

Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud

Now that the vaccine is given to boys and girls between the ages of 9 to 16 years, the opt-out method is viewed by the ministry as the most critical to a child receiving the vaccine. If a parent does not opt out, they are then asked to furnish the school with the child’s clinic card.

“It’s not a case where you have to give consent for each dose of the HPV vaccine to be administered, you can decide, from your informed perspective that you don’t want your child to have this vaccine, you will then sign off, otherwise we will assume that you have agreed to have the child immunized against the HPV.”

The CMO further stated that initially, in the HPV vaccination exercise, consent was sought from parents before vaccinating children, however, this process had put some children at a disadvantage when it came to receiving the vaccine.

“Initially, we have started a process of having consent for the HPV but on assessment when we revised the programme we found that was quite a barrier to persons accessing and a lot of persons came in saying that ‘this is an essential vaccine, I am unable to come to sign a paper but my child needs to get the vaccine’ and they even put it over as if we are denying the child the vaccine.”

The campaign administering for the HPV vaccine to boys and girls between the identified age range ran from February 11 to March 13, 2019. However, the opt-out option remains applicable even after the campaign period.

The ministry is forging ahead with the plan to host an HPV vaccine awareness campaign at the end of every six-month period. After this campaign, which closes at the end of March, another exercise is expected by September. This will keep the importance of the HPV vaccine in the public eye.

Delicia Haynes

Image: Giovanni Gajie