Guam – The number of public school students under Medicaid or MIP is as high as 85 percent.
This number was revealed during a press conference to announce a partnership between the Guam Department of Education, the Department of Public Health and Social Services and Guam Cancer Care for the HPV vaccine. The three agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
According to Guam Department of Education PIO Isa Baza, the total number of students enrolled in Guam’s public schools is 30,758 for school year 2016-2017. Based on that number, this means the number of students under Medicaid or MIP could be as high as 26,000. This staggering number was revealed during a press conference Tuesday to announce a partnership for a new HPV vaccination program.
“[About] 80 to 85 percent of our students are on MIP or Medicaid. That is a huge population that don’t immediately have access to healthcare,” expressed Nursing Services Administrator Julietta Quinene.
The number was highlighted to underscore the importance of getting the HPV vaccine as early as possible. The CDC recommends the vaccine be given to those between the ages of 9 to 26. HPV or the Human Papilloma Virus, which can lead to six different types of cancers, is usually spread through sexual contact.
The HPV vaccine is available through private clinics, but when a majority of your students are on welfare, Quinene says access to a vaccine that can literally save your life can be a huge challenge.
Baza, meanwhile, says GDOE is still compiling the data for the number of uninsured students at GDOE.
Thanks to a newly forged partnership, GDOE will now not only make the HPV vaccine available to students who don’t have private insurance, but will conduct clinics at several schools to bring the vaccine to them.
GDOE will start with high school seniors and move downward in grade levels as they continue their outreach efforts. They will begin their clinic at Southern High School, then Tiyan High School, Okkodo High School and finally George Washington High School. The vaccine drive will also be held at middle schools.
“We in the school setting are the perfect position to offer this case,” said Quinene.
“What a great opportunity where the parent doesn’t have to miss work, the student doesn’t have to miss school, that we are bringing it to the school and having it on campus during school time,” noted Annette Aguon, the CDC coordinator supervisor for the DPHSS.
Quinene says that with limited time, only four months left in the school year, they are hoping to reach a target of 3,000 students which is double the amount they achieved last school year. One hurdle they will have to overcome, however, is in collecting consent forms.
“One appeal I have to parents, please, if you get a letter starting now from Southern High onwards—if you get a letter, from a school nurse saying hey this is our proposal date of the clinic, we’re definitely gonna need consent. That’s really a huge challenge, getting consent back from our parents. We can have the dates, we can have the manpower, we can have everything but if we do not have consent forms, we cannot administer that HPV vaccination,” emphasized Quinene.
“They may become desensitized. ‘Oh yeah cancer is high, vaccination is important,’ but we need to remind parents, you need to help us help you and your children,” added Aguon.
You can read the press release from GDOE below:
The Guam Department of Education School Health Counselors – School Nurses – in collaboration with Guam Cancer Care and the Department of Public Health and Social Services Immunization Program are launching an aggressive “school-based” immunization program focused on cancer prevention and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
The voluntary immunization program aides in the fight against cancer and will expose thousands of local school children to vaccines that can help prevent a range of vaccine-preventable diseases.
In particular, children ages 9 to 17 years old who obtain parental consent will be able to receive the HPV vaccine at their respective school sites. This vaccination can help prevent against common cancers associated with HPV. The HPV vaccine will also be available for those between 18 -26 years old.
“Healthy children learn better, and if we as DOE School Health Counselors and Licensed Practical Nurses have an opportunity to keep children in school and administer these vaccines with parental/guardian consent, it is a win-win situation that will help keep children in school while also preventing debilitating and even life-threatening cancers in the future,” said DOE Chief Nurse Julietta Quinene. “We look forward to having fewer students missing school due to immunization update requirements and greater resources available for our School Health Counselors.”
Memorandums of Understanding are in place between GDOE, DPHSS and Guam Cancer Care detailing the implementation of the immunization program.