In an effort to control the spread of cervical cancer in Jamaica, the government has embarked on a campaign to vaccinate female students with the HPV vaccine.
Effective Monday, October 2 the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine began to be offered to female primary school students across Jamaica.
This is as health officials have urged parents and guardians to protect their daughters against cervical cancer.
The Ministry of Health said it would begin offering the vaccine to girls in grade seven, free of cost. The initiative is part of a J$100 million school-based program in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
The move is a proactive measure to protect girls against cervical cancer, which takes the lives of hundreds of women in the country annually, plus hundreds of thousands more worldwide.
Targeting 22,500 girls
Last month, Health Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, speaking at a HPV media sensitization forum at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said 22,500 girls will be targeted under the vaccine initiative. Two doses will be given six months apart for full protection.
Tufton said while the HPV vaccine is not mandatory he wanted to assure the public that the program is not a trial and error process.
“It is a tried and proven approach that is intended to make our population healthier as it relates to the risk of cervical cancer. I am confident that we are doing the right thing. I am confident that Jamaica needs this, our young girls, our young women; I am confident that it is the right step towards dealing with the risk that is at hand,” he said.
The minister explained over 200 million vaccine doses have been applied to patients worldwide, adding that more than 70 countries, including over 20 in Latin America and the Caribbean, have already introduced the HPV vaccine.
He said the initiative is a proactive move by the Jamaican government. He pointed out that 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Jamaica, and 185, primarily between the ages of 40 and 64, die from the disease, annually.
WHO recommends HPV vaccines
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the HPV vaccine be included in national immunization programs as a core strategy for primary prevention against cervical cancer.
WHO states that HPV vaccination for girls ages nine to 14 is the most cost effective public health measure against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaica and the ninth leading cause of death worldwide.
See previous articles on HPV vaccine in the Caribbean:
Jamaica to introduce HPV vaccine https://www.caribbeannationalweekly.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/jamaica-introduce-hpv-vaccine/
Guyana to vaccinate thousands of girls with HPV Vaccine https://www.caribbeannationalweekly.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/guyana-vaccinate-thousands-girls-hpv-vaccine/