Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand giving his speech during the National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: A top official from the ministry has reiterated on Wednesday that the cervical cancer vaccine for schoolgirls in Dubai and the Northern Emirates remains optional and will only be administered with a parent’s approval.

Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics at the Ministry of Health And Prevention, also assured the public that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine that protects against cervical cancer “is safe to take and has no side-effects.”

“We would like to clarify again that the HPV vaccination is optional. The UAE’s priority has always been to protect its residents and citizens from certain diseases,” he said.

Dr Rand said introducing the vaccination as part of the ‘National Immunisation Programme’ came after several recommendations that came from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Higher Committee of Immunisation, and the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, including recommendations from survivors and youth.

“We are in the process of launching a drive on October 2 to spread awareness about [the] HPV vaccination and its importance amongst community members. We would like dispel any misconceptions circulating among people and make it clear that this has nothing to do with traditions. This vaccination is for everyone.”

In the first stage, the vaccination will target girls and later boys, he said.

“HPV vaccination is like any other important vaccine, it gives protection against infections that might lead to cervical cancer in some cases and it also prevents genital warts in men and women,” said Dr. Nada Hassan Al Marzouqi, director of the Preventive Medicine Department in the ministry.

She said the current vaccination protects against six types of HPV, which are the most common that lead to cervical cancer.

“The vaccination has been available in the country since 1990 and the health authority in Abu Dhabi has recorded a successful experience since introducing it in 2008. They have been able to reach a coverage of 90 per cent.”