The Health Ministry, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Inter- American Development Bank, will be conducting a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis in several Regions.
In late 2019, a similar campaign was held by means of a house-to-house distribution of what was referred to as the filaria pills.
The campaign will officially kick off in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) on February 15 with the launch of the campaign, and one day later, distribution of the pills will commence.
Currently, the Health Ministry is meeting with stakeholders and interested groups in an effort to bring awareness to the campaign.
The team met with the Regional Democratic Council of Region 6(East Berbice/
Corentyne) on Thursday to provide an update on plans on the campaign in that region.
Speaking with the media, Director of Vector-Borne Diseases in the Health Ministry, Dr Horace Scott, explained that the 2019 campaign in Region Six was successful.
“As we understand (it), we had a 75 percent coverage, meaning that of the population that was eligible (to) receive the pills, the Region (had) surpassed the threshold that we (had) established, and we are very pleased with this,” he said.
Dr Scott noted that he is looking forward to another successful campaign in 2021.
That campaign will be launched in Region Six on February 27. However, pill distribution will commence on March 1, and will run until March 14.
Speaking of some of the concerns that were expressed during the 2019 campaign and might be of concern now, the Vector-Borne Diseases Director said some persons expressed concern that they were given pills at the clinic and questioned whether they should take them again.
He noted that some persons also wanted to have a good understanding of the possible side effects of the pills.
“Sometimes they might have heard of a mishap that would have occurred around the same time that we were distributing pills in another Region, and they asked genuine questions. So, what we try to do is to get in front of those and be proactive about it. So, this year, when we start in February, we will be having two community engagement personnel,” Dr Scott said.
Those persons will be tasked with getting the community involved. In addition to that, the local media would also be used to disseminate information.
Since the Health Ministry announced recommencement of the anti-lymphatic filariasis pill distribution campaign, some have already indicated that they took the pills during the last campaign.
However, Dr Scott pointed out that the Ministry is focusing on a community basis, and not personally.
“When you are on an elimination campaign, you are looking to get a certain percentage of the community. So, it is not so much about who would have taken the pills prior, it is more about the percentage coverage that we can get.”
He said the goal in Region Six as well as other regions is to get at least 80 percent of those eligible for the pills to take them.
“Despite persons might have taken the pills the year before, we are encouraging them to take them again. The effects of the pills in terms of sterilising the worm only last for about one year, so we want to ensure that persons can have this renewed intervention so that we can be successful until it can be validated Filarial-free.
However, there are a few categories which the Ministry is advising not to take the pills. These include pregnant women, persons under the age of 2 years, and persons who are seriously ill and not able to carry out daily functions.
“It is not necessarily that it will harm pregnant women, but there is no conclusive evidence, so we try to stay away from that. But the rest of the population, please do take your pills. (G4)