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Region 2 residents refusing Filariasis pills; wants Covid-19 vaccine first

The Lymphatic Filariasis mass drug distribution campaign in Region Two, is encountering mass refusal throughout the region since the campaign kicked off in that region last week. The disclosure was made by Mark McLean, section coordinator of the exercise.

When contacted for a comment Regional Coordinator Shaleena Jaigobin, confirmed the high refusal rate. When asked to give her findings as to why persons are refusing the pills, Shaleena said that persons in the field claim to be ‘reserving themselves for the COVID-19 vaccines.’

The mass drug distribution campaign, was initially launched in Guyana through the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization [PAHO] back in 2019 and is geared at eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis; a mosquito-borne disease commonly known as elephantiasis.

Elimination of the disease, however, requires two sets of dosage (tablets) over a specific time period, hence the second round of the campaign which recommenced earlier this year and is on the winding down phase.

According to McLean, there have been cases of entire families, blatantly refusing to have the pills.

“I have received feedback from distributors in the field that households are just refusing to take the pills. As of last night, Region Two was at the lowest in the country when it comes to distribution of the pills.”

Shaleena Jaigobin went on to explain to this publication..

“Persons want the vaccine, and you can’t take the filaria pills until seven days after Covid19 vaccine… It’s really hard explaining to them that the Filaria campaign is just for two weeks, while the COVID19 vaccine will continue to be available…. But for some reason they are determine not to take the pills.”

Since the exercise is not yet complete, the Regional Coordinator said that giving an accurate percentage of the refusal rate, will be impossible at this time. She did say, however, that the rate varies from various communities.

Additional information reaching this publication suggests that the riverine communities in the Pomeroon, have seen a much higher acceptance rate when compared to communities on the Essequibo Coast.

McLean, highlighted the importance of the final dosage being successful, saying it will reflect on the success on the entire exercise from 2019 to date.

“I am advising residents to take their pills so we can be on track and achieve our target…In 2019 we had this exercise and we were successful.  If we fail this year the whole exercise has to be restarted all over.” Said McLean.

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony had advised persons against taking the filaria pills and the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on the same day.

“There is nothing that prevents taking the vaccine if you’ve had filaria pills. Internally, we have come up with a protocol that says ‘okay just to make sure that we are able to monitor people to see whether there are any side effects, don’t take the things on the same day, that is just out of an abundance of caution,” Dr Anthony said.

The Health Ministry has estimated that some 166,000 persons have taken the pills to date.