Former PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) Africo Selman is calling for changes regarding the implementation of tablet distribution under the filaria prevention programme.
The Ministry of Public Health collaborated with the Ministry of Education on a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign to provide preventative filaria medication to persons living in endemic areas. The Department of Public Information (DPI) reported that the programme was developed to ensure that Guyana meets 65 percent coverage as it works to eradicate lymphatic filariasis, commonly called filaria, by 2020.
Selman, while noting the benefits of the programme, indicated that many of the schools lack the facilities and medical personnel to deal with after-effects of the tablets which include vomiting, headache, dizziness, fever, or body ache. Selman who teaches at a private institution noted that students, whose parents consented were recently administered the tablets at her school.
She said that the forms advised that the side effects were ‘rare’ but this was not so as the many students in the grade she teaches came down with vomiting and fever, while fifteen children were sent home for their ailments related to taking the drug.
“It (the forms) went on to say that if your child has side effects, there is going to be a health personnel attached to the school but I don’t know how many schools in Guyana have health personnel, especially the public schools,” she pointed out.
“It is fine to give out the tablets but it has to be done in a stable environment, you cannot give out to the schools where the children are not properly monitored; if they are at home the children can be monitored by their parents,” Selman added.
She suggested that even if the ministries continue to distribute in schools, it should be done on Fridays so that if the child falls sick, the parent can tend to their concerns. Children are at risk of filaria later on in their life when they are exposed to bites from the mosquito that carries the filaria worms.
DPI stated in late September that consent forms were being given to parents along with information on filaria and the treatment being used in the MDA campaign. This campaign will be done in Regions Three, Four, Five and Ten. Guyana has been using MDA campaigns since 2003 as it works to eradicate the disease.