FRANCISTOWN: Even before the Ministry of Health (MoH) has started administering the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in primary schools, some parents have expressed their skepticism.
According to MoH, the HPV vaccine reportedly helps prevent HPV, which causes cervical cancer. The vaccine will be administered at schools across the country to girls in Standard five, six and seven, as well as at health facilities to out-of-school girls aged nine- 13 years, from February 23-27.
In a snap survey, parents indicated that they did not understand anything about HPV, and could not allow their children to be vaccinated. Thapelo Reoagile, a resident of Monarch location, a mother to a 12-year-old girl, said she was against the vaccine because they were never consulted. “Anyone who will touch my child must be prepared for a lawsuit. It seems as if they are piloting with our children because we have not been given any information in regard to the vaccination. I do not want my child to remain a pumpkin for the rest of her life due to some of these injections,” she fumed. She however, hastened to add that if awareness had been raised to enlighten parents she would be prepared to consider the vaccine for her child.
Boyiseni Machisa made it clear that she did not want her child to be made a ‘guinea pig’. She also questioned what would happen if the vaccine proved to have negative side effects: would the Ministry take responsibility? “ I do not want cases whereby the vaccination goes wrong and leaves the child in bad heath. It’s usually the parent who is left alone to suffer and spend thousands on medical bills to try and correct the mistake done by health facilities,” she said.
Machisa further said MoH should equip parents with detailed information on the benefits and potential dangers of the HPV vaccine. “If the ministry does not inform us their operation is going to be doom due to lack of information. It is a good initiative but we are afraid for our children if the vaccination was taken by us adults maybe we could be telling a different story,” she said.
Nleya Kombani however noted that it was important as parents to allow their children access to HPV vaccine to protect their children against cancer. “ I do not think that MOH can initiate a programme that is a danger to the children, they cannot spend millions on medication unless they know it will bear fruits for the community,” he said. He added that thousands of people died each year from cervical cancer caused by HPV whilst it is entirely preventable. “With all that at stake, you’d think that parents would be tripping over themselves to get their daughters to health facilities for the HPV vaccine as soon as possible,” he added. Khombani said some parents were ignorant because he had visited health facilities several times, where he had heard nurses disseminating information on HPV.
Ndibo Monyatsi, MOH chief health officer in the department of child welfare, disagreed with skeptical parents on the grounds that information has been disseminated to mobilise the public. She said that they had aired several campaigns on radio, advertised through print and conducted health pitsos. “We did everything in our power to ensure that each district mobilises its community,” she said.