The case of girls who received the human papillomavirus vaccine in Carmen de Bolívar (Bolívar) in 2014 marked a milestone in the vaccination program started in 2012 in the country. In that year, in the county, several smaller ones said that they suffered "faints" because of the vaccine.
After reports of unreliable reports of fainting vaccines, the program went from 95% coverage in the first dose in 2013 to 6% in 2016, according to data presented by Diego García, Deputy Minister of Health.
With this scenario, in 2015, Javier Luna assumed the position of municipal health secretary in Carmen de Bolívar. The spectator He spoke to him at the meeting on HPV Prevention and Control in Colombia and on HPV-related cancers: lessons learned and the way forward. "
When he took office, how did he find the situation of Carmen de Bolivar in relation to the human papillomavirus vaccine?
A year ago, the first crises occurred. It was a very complex situation. The first thing we did was to meet with the parents' associations to offer them full support and follow-up to the EPS so that the attention required by the girls could be achieved.
How was that meeting?
At first good. One person has been assigned to accompany the EPS due to delays in authorizations and to make good use of the emergency. And we tried to improve the bad environment that existed between emergency workers and parents. We even met the guidelines of the hospital and we came to an agreement so that both sides could lower their guard a little.
So the girls still had symptoms?
Yes, they continued to have symptoms more or less until the year 2016. And then they subsided. The initial database that was taken in the emergency department ostensibly decreased.
How is the situation today?
He is much calmer. We followed the commitments made by the Ministry, the provision of some health posts, a rescue plan for the first-level municipal ESE, a mobile unit that was necessary for rural service. Agreements were also reached with the Super, to permanently give priority to attention or complaints that were placed against the EPS for non-attention and non-delivery of authorizations. The parents demanded that they be transported, because Carmen is an area of difficult access. It became a rather complex situation where the Secretariat's position had to be neutral.
And how is the conviction, from the point of view of scientific evidence, about the innocuousness of the vaccine?
Null Until now, we were not able to make any progress on this, despite some very lukewarm efforts we made. Parent associations have a certain strength when it comes to the issue of vaccines, so it is very difficult for us to act from the Secretariat. We have stocked only 10 doses of vaccines this year and we have not had any kind of demand. However, starting in January, we will generate business for schools and educational institutions and remind them that vaccinations are available for each of the girls. And start with the publicity that will be the most difficult part of those four years.
But you need to come up with a strategy to convince people …
Exactly We should look at the possibility of generating a bit more information through local channels and other means, looking for a way for people to remove the stigma of the HPV vaccine. The point is that it can not only be a strategy of the municipal health department. It's a problem that belongs to us. It is easier to say Bogota, to say in the province where there is practically no access to any type of communication, I could undertake an aggressive strategy, but I will receive against all this barrage of anti-vaccines people, that they will have their reasons, and I respect their position, but scientifically they have no evidence. That was when we first collided, after a few meetings, and then got a bit hot in that direction, but without keeping the clear position that vaccines definitely have nothing to do with that.
It is a job that I have been dealing with very discreetly, because it is a fear founded by those who have lived directly with the girls. I have always reiterated that girls are not sick, although in fact there are some basic pathologies that have been diagnosed. Everyone has a diagnosis and some have already left the controls. But there are some diagnoses related to vaccine application. This has been the hardest thing and I have lived in my own case … My wife tells me she doubts. Even when I bring him the evidence, he tells me, "Even so, that raises questions." And I put myself in that mother's place. They saw that the girls were taken on motorcycles, the crisis in schools … countless things.
And if you have brought scientific evidence to your wife, what is the next step to convince her?
Well, the next step is to take her to Bogotá to help me convince her (laughs). I do not see it that easy. But I think she should prioritize the future of our girl, her future health. I always gave the example of a girl on a sidewalk who told me that one day talking to her mother, her mother told her that when the girls went into crisis in the classroom, she left the room and did not look where the girls were. And it worked. The girl never repeated a crisis. And she says she's a healthy girl and that if she had the opportunity to take a third dose, she'd put it on.
At the Secretariat, we have two people permanently available to receive complaints. We lacked the support of Family Welfare, because many of the girls are still underage. I can not resolve from the territorial command a matter that is within the competence of this institute.
How much roommate do you feel in this crusade?
I feel very alone, although I have the support of the Ministry. I even received threats at some point against my life and my daughters … but well, that's my political and social role. I have always been a public person and in Carmen I have been working in the public sector for 18 years.
Does your mayor believe you?
Yes of course. The mayor gave me full confidence, the only thing we do not agree on is the HPV vaccine issue, and I respect your criteria and your position.
How does it feel to know that he is the Secretary of Health of a population that has marked a milestone in the country's indicators?
They feel many things. A responsibility and a fulfillment of duty fulfilled. I feel that I did what was within my reach and that I remained in my clear position, that the vaccine definitely has nothing to do with the affections of the girls who, I repeat, are sick, but we did all the I work on the EPS. I feel we have to look for more ways to make visible a problem that does not have the necessary attention at some point. I acknowledge the efforts of the ministry, but also what more could have been done to care for these parents. Carmen de Bolívar is a small Colombia, all problems come together. You have to look at this as a more national issue. Let's see the path that God and destiny continue to follow.
Do you have a year and a month to do a human papillomavirus activity, what would it be?
Vaccination again in schools. Take a riding school and take it with more peace and rest, do it in coordination with the municipality, make things as they are and explain the benefits to the parents. It's the initial plan. We hope that God will accompany us.