Reasons the Government of Guyana should stop the HPV campaign and Gardasil vaccination immediately

Dear Editor,

We are writing to share our concerns about the HPV vaccination campaign that the Guyana Ministry of Public Health has once again re-launched, specifically targeting pre-teen schoolgirls.

First of all, please know that we are knowledgeable about the Gardasil vaccine and included among is a public health professional. All of us have a great and abiding commitment to the health, empowerment, and rights of women and children. We are not ignorant crackpots nor people who oppose government actions because we are anti-government. Our objection to this campaign and vaccine stems not from a lack of caring about persons’ health; on the contrary- it is precisely because we are greatly concerned about the wellbeing of women and children in Guyana that we are urging that a stop be put to it.

There are significant harmful side effects from the vaccine that parents of girl children need to be made aware of- data that the MoPH has not shared nor adequately educated parents about. The MoPH has built this campaign around people’s fear of cancer and without any proper public consultation or discussion about the risks of the vaccine. We believe that women and girls must be provided with all the available information so they can be empowered to make the best decision for themselves and their families- not just be browbeaten and bamboozled by the authorities or those who seem to have more knowledge than they do.

Finally, we believe that promoting regular sexual health checkups and cancer screenings such as PAP smears and VIA testing (which have no harmful side effects) is a far more efficient and effective use of the scarce resources of the MoPH and would have a greater long term impact in preventing and reducing cervical cancer among Guyanese women. We urge the MoPH to dedicate its efforts and attention to that front instead and would willingly work with them at such time.

Listed below are some specific concerns about HPV and Gardasil that we urge you to review and share, especially with parents of pre-teen and teenage girl children, so that all may become better informed and more able to make a good decision about safeguarding the health of their children. Do note that all this data is from highly reputable, scientifically accurate sources (references are included so that you may check for yourself).

  • Most HPV infections go away on their own, without treatment, and do not result in cancer. In the United States, where the prevalence of HPV infection is significantly higher than in Guyana, only about 3.4% of all HPV viruses were associated with cervical cancer[1].
  • Cervical cancer is one of the most easily detected and treated cancers[2]. Regular screening- either by PAP smear or VIA testing- is extremely effective at detecting pre-cancerous growths which can then be destroyed before they become cancerous[3]. Notably, VIA testing just uses vinegar; it is a simple test that doesn’t require a lot of training to do or interpret, making it particularly suitable for use in under-resourced regions of Guyana.
  • According to the American Cancer Society- when caught early, the survival rate for women with cervical cancer is 93%[4]. In addition, the World Health Organization notes that early treatment programs in developed countries prevents up to 80% of cervical cancers[5].
  • Gardasil contains genetically engineered virus-like particles as well as aluminum, which have been proven to negatively affect immune functioning[6];[7]. Furthermore- according to the vaccine manufacturer product information insert- Gardasil not been evaluated for carcinogenicity or genotoxicity[8]. What this means therefore is that the possibility exists that this vaccine itself could cause cancer! This cannot be known yet though; many years have to pass first. As such, we recommend that a precautionary approach be followed and use of this vaccine stopped immediately, especially since there are effective and efficient screening methods that have no side effects.
  • The Japanese Health Ministry stopped recommending Gardasil vaccination for their citizens since 2013 and continues to maintain this position[9]. In addition, the US government has paid nearly US$6M in compensation to persons and families whose loved ones suffered serious side effects from this HPV vaccine[10].
  • The cost of this vaccine in Canada is about $405Can per recipient. The Guyanese government has stated that it is aiming to distribute approximately 40,000 doses of this vaccine across Guyana. We question where the funding for this vaccination campaign has come from and ask the MoPH to provide data showing if spending money on this vaccine is more cost-effective than funding regular cervical cancer screening programs. As we said earlier, it is our contention is that it would be a better and more sensible use of our scarce public health resources to strengthen cervical cancer screening programs throughout Guyana- especially in the hinterland regions which are consistently under-resourced- instead of promoting mass vaccination.
  • The HPV vaccine can have numerous harmful side effects including vomiting, dizziness, swollen glands, shortness of breath, chest pain, aching muscles, and prolonged muscle weakness. There have also been cases of women and girls suffering paralysis and death after receiving this vaccine[11]. Please note that we have not said that these side effects are inevitable but the information needs to be shared with parents so that they can weigh the risks and benefits for themselves and not be misled into giving permission for their young children to receive this vaccine without knowing the serious side effects it could cause.
  • Because of the lack of information about side effects overall, as well as the specific lack of this information in indigenous languages, if girls in the Guyanese hinterland- a special target area of this campaign- get sick from this vaccine, it is unlikely that they will receive proper emergency attention and care.

In conclusion, given the lack of public education and consultation, this campaign to administer Gardasil to pre-teen and teenage Guyanese children is a violation of the Rights of the Child Convention.  We urge all Guyanese parents to join us in calling on the MoPH to:

  1. Stop the nationwide HPV vaccination campaign immediately;
  2. Launch a national public awareness exercise to inform pre-teen and teenage girls and their parents of all the vaccine risks and side effects so that they can make more informed decisions;
  3. Conduct ongoing national public education campaigns to highlight the importance of all sexually active Guyanese women obtaining regular PAP smears or VIA testing as the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer;
  4. Ensue that healthcare facilities in all regions of Guyana are always equipped with skilled staff and materials needed to conduct and interpret cervical cancer screening using PAP smears and/or VIA testing;
  5. Implement comprehensive sexuality education in all schools nationwide so that Guyanese youth are better informed about sexual health and the functioning of their bodies, and gain the necessary skills to communicate openly, honestly, and non-judgmentally with their peers, partners, parents, and healthcare providers about safer sex, consent, and other related topics.

If anyone would like to speak with us directly or have us come and discuss this information further with any group or organization, we can be reached thusly: 653-3734; 223-6254.

Yours very sincerely,

Sherlina Nageer, MPH

Karen DeSouza

Andaiye

Charlene Wilkinson

Mark Jacobs

 

[1] http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/297/8/813.abstract?ijkey=85292b84748848d91264576bb538b4148404c962&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

[2] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.html

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4481740/

[4] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival.html

[5] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs380/en/

[6] http://info.cmsri.org/the-driven-researcher-blog/are-aluminum-adjuvants-plus-gardasil-a-uniquely-damaging-neuroinflammatory-cocktail

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27421722

[8] https://www.fda.gov/downloads/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/approvedproducts/ucm111263.pdf

[9] https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/861322

[10] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/31/us-court-pays-6-million-gardasil-victims/

[11] https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-144456/gardasil-pf-intramuscular/details/list-sideeffects

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thank you massa

heard a minister of government say today that “we have to be ready for the development that’s going to come.” everybody clapped.

also heard today- a young friend’s story of when she was a ward of the state. one day she was sent to a foster home. this was a few years ago, in the beginning of the foster care program; they hadn’t sorted out the stipend part yet. a few mornings later, she got her period. she asked her foster mother for a sanitary pad so she could go to school; she had exams to write. after she finished her exam but before she could go back home, she received a message from her social worker. she was not to go back to the foster home, but to the state-run children’s home instead. “For years afterwards,” she said, “I thought something was wrong with me, that’s why she didn’t want me.. Is only when I got big that I realized she was the one with the problem..

i recognize, in the recent pic of guyana govt misleaders and their minions skinning their teeth at evil exxon’s huston hq pre-hurricane harvey flood- someone who i last saw working at the child care and protection agency. now she jet setting w the unbribe-able politrickians of gt.

aah yes, Guyana, clap and be grateful that the white man has come to save us from the nowhere train that we were on.. cuz we sure as heck were doing a piss poor job of taking care of ourselves, weren’t we? best we go back under all-knowing, all-powerful whitey. i mean, yuh already bleaching, right? just now we’re all going to get a check from exxon every month! think of how much more bleaching cream you cud buy wid dat.

thank you massa!

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green economy 101

No, I don’t want to come inside your AC room. I’m fine outside here without any walls around me, a tree at my back, the sky and clouds over head, nice breeze. Do you want a seedling? You selling them? No, they free. Ok then. She takes three for her yard. Security guard at gate- a big woman, working the usual 12hr shift for a pittance. Note to self- come back w salt bag; there’re lots of lovely cow pies on campus- i filled up my bucket with manure minutes after arriving. Speaking of shit- a bunch of economists hector me; economics is about making rational decisions, one says, dealing with finite resources, a necessary something. One of them is wearing a dark suit. He swelters in the tropical sun. He is one of the ones in charge. I laugh. Rational decision making my bamzee! She’s just throwing shit at the fan, another says dismissively. Well there’s definitely a lot of shit around here to shie, that’s for sure. I smile winningly. This time- unlike the last time I engaged in shit talking w a big man- we don’t end up in court ;). He stays outside and gyaffs with me for over an hour, after all the others have drifted back inside. What kind of academic training do I have? What work do I do? What’s my vision of the world? It’s always entertaining, the expressions on people’s faces at this point. Wage slavery, environmental justice, intersectionality- it’s like speaking a different language to some folks. He stares, says something about enigmas and puzzles. He left Guyana in 1976, didn’t come back til 2010. This trip tho, has been something else. Has made me reevaluate how I was doing everything. I couldn’t live here tho, he says. Yes, it’s not easy, I agree. But you can live in the States? That’s madness too. Silence. Of course there are those who ignore, like they’re used to, like the plague, those who walk past then turn back and snap a quick pic, those who aren’t sure what’s going on and don’t care enough to find out. Mr Griffith in his big tinted SUV, for one, being driven like Ms. Daisy. Of course I hear from the CI Guyana stalwarts- they aren’t co-sponsoring w Exxon, they just gave scholarships to students. They don’t seem to mind how things appear. Mr organizer is pleased that Exxon responded to him and is participating; he bemoans the “blackout” other agencies have given his workshop. The $250 fee is no big thing, several of them say. I get asked again to come inside and participate. I am participating, I say, in my way. Inside, they’re still talking about sustainable development and handing out plastic water bottles. When the coconut water man is right outside the gate, cutlass at the ready.. $250USD to interact w them about rational decision making and the green economy. UH HUH. I stay outside for two and a half hours, talking with whoever talks to me. I’m not anti-dialogue, and, maybe surprising to some- I can engage without ‘busing. I had cussed up a storm when I first saw the flyer for the event; my friends who saw that rant are surprised no doubt, that there were no expletives on my placard today. My initial burst of anger has given way to sadness at this point tho- some of these people are the same ones who were running behind Jagdeo and the LCDS. They’re supposed to be the big brain intellectuals but they continue to be misled, sadly, and tragically, continue to mislead others. Then GPHell blackout hits, like clockwork, and is confusion. They scramble to open the windows. We can see each other clearly now. What does it mean, your sign? Just reminders I say. Just some reminders. As you make your rational decisions and conversate/partner w evil Exxon.. #only1Earthhabitableplanet

green def20690154_1694222700590679_7419480161965887664_ogreen economy seedlingsgreeneconomymyth

grow more

how many can you identify? how many do you have growing by you? this is some of what’s growing in the backyard of the one ‘family property’ remaining in Lusignan.. blessed by the ancestors even tho most of their descendants have long beat out for better pastures- i mean bright lights n big cities.. me- i happy to be mobilizing downward, into the ground.

lemongrass

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a tale of two mothers

a tale of two mothers. the first is trying to slow down time. she gets a year with her newborn before the child is taken away. these simpletons think its better to sever the maternal-offspring bond than bring the child up in prison. but children are born and raised in brothels, sweatshops, and shantytowns the world over. #hypocrisymuch The second mother is trying to speed up time. She’s got a release date, see? she has 3 children- a girl and 2 boys who are both in the GDF (Army). She was busted at the airport with cocaine. She plead guilty right away and has already served 2/3 of her time. She lived 10 minutes away from the prison, she said. She used to exercise around it when she was young; she’d run past early in the morning, tantalizing the big women inside. Now, funnily enough, many years later, she’s a captive, staring out at life going by. #ataleof2mothers #Guyana2017

jubilee +1- Guyana 2017

Sometimes I decide to go to things. Sometimes I get to thinking I should engage/participate more in the larger society out there. So I leave my hammock and my yard of growing things, and- risking my life in the minibuses- I go. Sometimes I’m glad, pleasantly surprised, meet cool people, feel stimulated. This being Independence eve and all, I made the effort. The event description mentioned young people and an environmental organization- that’s why I went; Earth and the future is in peril- I wanted to hear what young people thought and were doing about that. But it turns out that was just the first 15 minutes; the rest of the time was devoted to the Constitution and blah blah blah. There weren’t that many people there- there were competing events- the flag raising, something about oil and gas- undoubtedly more people were at those events. So i forced myself to stay. It was hard for me to sit there though. I twitched my fingers and toes, slumped then pulled myself back up, closed my eyes, rested my head in my hands, just fidgeted. All I kept thinking while man after man droned on about the Constitution and politricks was the little girl I had spent the previous hours of the afternoon with. She was 7 going on 8, in Grade 2, and she couldn’t write a proper sentence. In fact, she was at the ‘cat, bat, rat, hat’ stage of reading/writing. At 7 going on 8. She has never not been in school. It’s public school tho, not private; she’s not from a wealthy family. They have had their share of troubles actually, but she hasn’t been the one directly affected. Physically- as far as the eye can see- she’s fine, healthy. But the learning deficits are unmistakable. 20170525_165731

She’s never been assessed though- where does one even go to get that done in Guyana, another colleague/friend and I pondered the other day? I thought of one person who might know; after the holiday we’ll reach out and see (Karen H- is you I thinking of). 51 years of independence. 7 yr olds who can’t read. She’s not alone- when I was volunteering at the Drop In Center- before it burned down killing Joshua and Antonio George- I found many children who were going to school every day, who had notebooks full of notes, but who struggled to read and write basic sentences in English <Charlene, you have to give me tips on how to assess Creolese fluency in writing>. I stopped volunteering after the fire- there wasn’t any suitable place for that at the new location where the surviving children were re-located to, I was told when I visited there. Besides, they reported, most of the children had been sent back to their families. I see them around regularly actually- usually it’s they who “Miss” me. I saw one of the boys last Friday, unloading thrushes of water coconuts from the back of a pickup truck at my weekly neighborhood market. It was around 11am, time when he should have been in school. But instead, he was child laboring. When I asked if he was going to school, he dropped his eyes and lied. “Yes Miss. I just didn’t go today.” I stood there for a few minutes, just watching him silently. When the backs of the adult men directing the operation were turned, I asked him softly if they were paying him. He nodded. These children are everywhere- you don’t have to know or look hard to see them; they are everywhere; clearly visible every day. They’re at the intersections and road corners selling water, soda, and beer. They’re pushing bales of stuff in the market and climbing into storage bonds. They’re running errands for big people and engaging in all kinds of hustles. The girls are a bit more invisible- unless you’re in the bush or a bottomhouse bar. 51 years of independence. And these men are talking about the readability of the Constitution and all the beautiful things it promises the Guyanese people. The environmental organization man talks about how happy he is to have found a job he likes and the awesomeness of nature. About the pristineness of Guyana’s environment and the difficulty getting coastlanders to appreciate it. The young woman on the panel- the only one, someone i know, who blew a kiss to me earlier- talks about love. Love of country and the awesomeness of nature. The other young man talks about his love of the law, and youth coupling with wisdom. He is careful, too careful, already lawyerly-careful, to not blame anyone (the government) for anything. 20170525_185101The veteran trade unionist’s 15 minutes feels like an hour and at the end of it I’m completely discombobulated.  I want to scream. I want to cry. I leave when another comrade of sorts asks about the lack of a strong civil society response to the abuses of power. My head feels like it’s going to explode; I bolt outside- if it does, I want to at least get one last glimpse of the stars before oblivion. Instead I’m greeted by the sight of overflowing garbage bins and piles of garbage strewn about the pathway. On the other side, inside the GuyOil compound, nice Jamaican music plays and people dance, enjoying the pre-Independence. 20170525_191846

I walk to the National Library, to check on the banner I put up there day before yesterday. It says LGBT and Guyanese on the same line and it was a minor dream of mine to get a banner like this in this position. LGBT event at Natl Library- signThis being Guyana though, anything could have happened to it. So I’m going to check on it. I have some more wire in my bag to secure it more if necessary. I hear a sound behind me and turn; it’s just a dog. Still, I’m on the alert. I am a woman, walking alone. I have been mugged before and have no desire for a repeat. Another block and another sound, this one human. Turning I see a man in slippers, one of the numerous street dwellers of Georgetown. Shit. I pick up my pace and search the wire out of my bag, wrapping it around my fist. I could poke him with it if necessary, or strangle him maybe? Yes, these are the things women walking alone on darkened streets think.  Under a streetlight I see that he is of indigenous heritage. It’s funny- I had been thinking, in the event earlier, when the environment organization people were talking, about how I would have liked  to see/hear an indigenous person’s perspective. So now the universe had sent me someone. Real funny. I cross the street, looking back still. I know he sees me looking at him, judging him a threat. I feel like shit but this is life. Fucked up shit. As we near the library, he greets me. “Exercising huh?” he says inanely. I just grunt. My head still feels like it’s going to explode.

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