Do you have questions about the human papillomavirus (HPV)? Do you want to know more about the HPV vaccine being used to treat young girls and boys before exposure to the disease?
The Ministry of Health is creating an opportunity for persons to pose their queries, openly air their misgivings or even suspicions, through a series of islandwide Town Hall Meetings. These Town Hall Meetings will be up close, interactive, questions and answer sessions with medical experts in the fields of gynaecology and paediatrics. These Town Hall meetings are where persons, especially parents and guardians will be encouraged to speak freely to matters relating to the disease and the proposed vaccine being used in secondary schools across the island. The first of these three Town Hall meetings is slated for Wednesday, October 31, 2018, 5:30 p.m. at the Webster Memorial Church, 53 Half Way Tree Road. The MOH will be actively listening to the concerns of parents, teachers and anyone else who wants more information on the Ministry’s drive towards vaccinating the nation’s girls.
Dr. Melody Ennis, Acting Director of the Family Health Unit in the MOH, Dr. Clive Lai, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Dr. Abigail Harrison: Paediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Specialist are scheduled to speak at the Town Hall next week. Citizens are encouraged to come out to Webster Memorial Church, to get reassurance and receive the answers they seek as it relates to the MOH campaign.
Also, on the agenda is words from a survivor of cervical cancer as well as a young girl who has received the vaccine.
Beginning in September, the MOH has been campaigning to bring awareness to the dangers of HPV and its connection to cervical cancer. HPV is a group of some 200 viruses that infect skin tissue. According to one report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life if they do not get vaccinated for HPV. It is for this reason that the MOH has as its target, young girls in first form ages nine-14, who are more likely not exposed to the virus as yet.
The HPV vaccine is available to women up to age 26 as a means to fight cervical cancer. However, the vaccine is most effective if given before exposure to the virus, which is why many countries across the globe have moved to include HPV vaccine programmes as part of its routine immunisation schedule for pre-teen girls. Jamaica is following suit.
Reports from the CDC estimate that about 79 million Americans currently live with HPV and some 14 million people become newly infected each year. Still, studies conducted in 2010 surrounding HPV prevalence in Jamaica revealed that the overall pervasiveness of any HPV infection was 54 per cent. Of this, 34.0 per cent of women were found to have the cancer-causing HPV types. Additionally, HPV types 16 and 18 were found in 10.5 per cent of the general population and 71 per cent of women with abnormal pap smears.
Research has shown that there at least 14 types of HPV that have been found to cause cancer of the cervix, penis, anus and throat. However, types 16 and 18 are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases. At present, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women worldwide, with more than 85 per cent occurring in developing countries, like Jamaica. Therefore, a simple vaccine now may save a girl from developing cervical cancer in the future.