By Aabigayle McIntosh
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health are planning to discuss the possibility of adding the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) to the list of mandatory vaccines for children.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph stated on state media that no policy has been made on the decision yet, but talks must be held to discuss the matter.
Currently, all children are required to take eight vaccines in addition to a booster shot.
Sir Molwyn said that he does not have a government policy yet on how the vaccine will be administered, but once that is decided, the numbers can be accelerated rapidly.
He emphasized that the decision cannot be made in isolation and that consultation with education officials is necessary.
Meanwhile, The Ministry of Health and Wellness is planning to buy a single-dose vaccine for its Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) program, which has been ongoing for some time. Sir Molwyn mentioned that despite the higher cost, the single-dose vaccine will make a significant impact in the fight against cervical cancer by 2020.
“Just this week I instructed my Permanent Secretary to advise the health officials that we will no longer be using the two-dose, we are going to be purchasing the single-dose, but those who have had the first dose of the two-dose version will get their second dose.
“But any future purchase of vaccines will be the single dose that decision will have been made already.” Minister Joseph outlined.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has praised the country’s efforts made by Antigua and Barbuda in the fight against cervical cancer. The Twin Island state has been selected for a pilot program on the road to achieving World Health Organisation targets for eliminating the disease.
Minister Joseph said he is indeed pleased by this development.
“Just yesterday, I was invited by PAHO to be a part of the World Health Summit in Berlin to present Antigua’s experience”, Joseph said.
Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and almost entirely preventable, cervical cancer is one of the most common cancer, and cause of cancer-related deaths, in women in Antigua and Barbuda.