309 Girls in Four Schools Receive HPV Vaccine

Photo: Office off the Prime Minister Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (right), is in discussion with Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (centre) and Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Noami Francis prior to the start of Wednesday’s (October 4) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House in Kingston.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has informed that 309 girls in four schools across Kingston and St. Andrew, and Portland have received the humanpapilloma virus (HPV) vaccine since the programme started.
  • The four schools are Oberlin and Papine High in Kingston and St. Andrew, and Titchfield and Happy Grove in Portland.
  • The programme, which started on Monday (October 2), will be administered to girls in grade seven, between ages nine and 14 years, free of cost. The vaccine is not mandatory. The target is approximately 22,500 girls, and each girl will need two doses given six months apart for full protection.

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has informed that 309 girls in four schools across Kingston and St. Andrew, and Portland have received the humanpapilloma virus (HPV) vaccine since the programme started.

The four schools are Oberlin and Papine High in Kingston and St. Andrew, and Titchfield and Happy Grove in Portland.

Speaking at today’s (October 4) post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr. Tufton said 21 girls opted out of the process.

“So, you are looking at well above the 80 percentile, close to 90 per cent participation rate, which is in keeping with the averages that we expect. So, those are the latest figures that I have; and, again, those institutions, based on the targets that were set and what was actually done, were obviously prepared for the administration of the process,” he said.

The programme, which started on Monday (October 2), will be administered to girls in grade seven, between ages nine and 14 years, free of cost. The vaccine is not mandatory. The target is approximately 22,500 girls, and each girl will need two doses given six months apart for full protection.

The initiative falls under a $100-million programme and is being carried out by the administration as a move to protect girls against cervical cancer, which takes the lives of hundreds of women in the country per year and hundreds of thousands more worldwide.

In the meantime, Dr. Tufton said his Ministry will be collaborating with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to ensure that all stakeholders, including school administrators and parents, have adequate information about the programme.

“Where we discern, either because of an expression of concern by a school administrator, principal or parents… that the communication needs to be beefed up (and that) they need greater clarity, then in those instances related to those institutions, we would have… to delay the process. In fact, we have pushed back some of the proposed dates for some institutions,” he noted.

He said the delay may result from the unavailability of medical practitioner(s) or inability of the school to facilitate the health authorities on the proposed dates for the administration.
Clarifying media reports regarding the status of the initiative, Dr. Tufton said the Government will continue with the roll-out.

Meanwhile, Acting Director, Family Health Services, Ministry of Health, Dr. Melody Ennis, said countries that have introduced the vaccine more than 10 years have been recording successes.

“The numbers of precancerous lesions have decreased by some 20 to 30 per cent in some of those countries. So, there is some amount of success with the administration of this vaccine, and the data continues to come in,” she said.

In excess of 200 million doses of the vaccine have been applied to patients worldwide. More than 70 countries, including over 20 in Latin America and the Caribbean, have already introduced the HPV vaccine.

The Ministry of Health will be ramping up the public education campaign on its initiative to prevent cervical cancer through the introduction of the HPV vaccine programme.

Members of the public can call the Ministry’s toll-free line 1-888-ONE LOVE or 1-888-663-5683 to clarify concerns, or email the Ministry at hpvinfo@moh.gov.jm. Additional information is available at www.moh.gov.jm.

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Jamaica, and remains a significant public health concern. Current estimates indicate that every year, 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer; 185 die from the disease, with the majority of deaths occurring in women between 40 and 64 years of age.

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