Support for Government’s HPV Vaccine Programme

Photo: JIS Photographer President of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr. Clive Lai.

Story Highlights

  • The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) and the Paediatric Association of Jamaica have come out in support of the Government’s move to administer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in schools.
  • The HPV vaccine is being introduced to schoolgirls in the grade-seven cohort with two doses given six months apart, in keeping with global standards.
  • The vaccine is intended to prevent HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide, which is the central cause of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the world and the fourth most common in Jamaica. It is also the country’s second most common cancer among the female population after breast cancer.

The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) and the Paediatric Association of Jamaica have come out in support of the Government’s move to administer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in schools.

President of the MAJ, Dr. Clive Lai, said the vaccination programme recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) has been successfully implemented in several other jurisdictions, including Australia and the United States, and is expected to be effective locally.

Noting that the MAJ will continue to work with the Ministry of Health in the programme’s implementation, he urged further public education to provide parents with relevant information about the vaccine and the virus.

“Public education is very important. Parents and guardians need the information to make an informed consent. Once they are properly educated and informed, then they can make an informed decision and they can also opt not to take it,” he said.

The vaccine is intended to prevent HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide, which is the central cause of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the world and the fourth most common in Jamaica. It is also the country’s second most common cancer among the female population after breast cancer.

Cervical cancer accounts for 15 per cent of all female cancer deaths locally.

HPV infects the cells and transforms normal cells on the cervix to cancer. It can take 10 to 15 years to develop.

“If we can find a way to prevent the virus from developing within the cells and causing the transformation of the cells into cancerous or precancerous cells, then we would have done really well,” Dr. Lai said.

“Many persons are not aware they have it, but once you are sexually active, there is a high chance that you will contract it. The good thing is that we have an immune system that will fight it, but some are not able to; and the virus will develop into pre-cancerous or cancerous changes,” he added.

He further highlighted that the vaccine is not new to Jamaica, and is being used in several institutions and in private medical practices islandwide.

Meanwhile, President of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica, Dr. Abigail Harrison, in a statement on Wednesday (October 4), also encouraged parents and guardians to ensure they have adequate knowledge and understanding of the HPV vaccine.

“We, therefore, recommend that parents carefully read the fact sheet, and information letter that has been sent home with their daughter/ward from the Ministry of Health, and that parents contact their paediatrician, family doctor or nearest health centre for further information if they need clarification,” she said.

As of March 31, 2017, some 71 countries globally introduced the HPV vaccine in their national immunisation programme for girls. In addition to the USA and Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados have administered the vaccine through targeted programmes.

Some countries that have been administering the vaccine for more than a decade have reported a decreased amount of precancer cells in the cervix of women.

None of the HPV vaccines contain live biological products and are, therefore, non-infectious. Side effects are also reportedly mild, including soreness at the injection site as well as dizziness, nausea and headache lasting 15 minutes after administration. There is less than one in 10 chance of experiencing a side effect.

The HPV vaccine is being introduced to schoolgirls in the grade-seven cohort with two doses given six months apart, in keeping with global standards.

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