#Jamaica, October 3, 2017 – Kingston – The Health Ministry is imploring parents and guardians to protect their daughters against cervical cancer by allowing them to be inoculated with the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Come Monday (October 2), the Ministry will begin offering the vaccine to girls in grade seven, free of cost. The initiative falls under a $100 million school-based programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
The move is a proactive measure by the Government 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.
Speaking at a HPV media sensitization forum at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona Campus on September 29, Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton said 22,500 girls will be targeted under the initiative, noting that two doses will be given six months apart for full protection.
He said the vaccine is not mandatory and assured the public that the programme 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.
He informed that over 200 million doses of the vaccine has been applied to patients worldwide, adding that more than 70 countries, including more than 20 in Latin America and the Caribbean have already introduced the HPV vaccine.
Minister Tufton said the initiative is a proactive move by the Government, pointing out that 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Jamaica each year while 185 women die from the disease annually, primarily between the ages of 40 and 64.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that HPV vaccines be included in national immunization programmes 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. The most common cancers in Jamaica are prostate, lung and colorectal in men; and breast, cervical and colorectal cancers in women. Prostate and breast cancers are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths.