Health minister urges more persons to take HPV vaccine to reduce risk of cervical cancer, other diseases
With cervical cancer maintaining its position as the second most common cancer affecting women, the low adoption rate of HPV vaccines in Guyana has become a cause for concern, Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony has stated.
These vaccines serve as a vital safeguard against HPV infections and cervical pre-cancers, hence the urgency for increased awareness and uptake of the vaccine locally.
Speaking at the launch of the national expansion of the HEARTS Initiative for the management of cardiovascular diseases recently, Dr Anthony highlighted that since the introduction of the programme in Guyana, the number of persons who are vaccinated remains at a minimum.
“It’s not a lack of resources … we have to start by getting more people to take HPV vaccines … How are we going to prevent cervical cancer from happening if we don’t have a broad base programme? This is something, I recall HPV vaccination was started by Dr Ramsaran, that’s a long time ago. Up to now, we have not been able to scale it up to where it ought to be,” Dr Anthony pointed out.
Further, the health minister emphasised the critical need for medical professionals to reevaluate the implementation of the programme, recognising the pivotal role they play in bringing real change in the country.
“It’s not that we don’t have the tools to prevent, it’s that we’re not implementing the tools to the scale that we need to implement it, to make that impact and to bring that change,” he explained.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, all HPV vaccines protect against at least HPV types 16 and 18, which places individuals at the greatest risk of developing cervical cancer.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause a range of health issues, including genital warts and cancer.
In the meantime, the government continues to expand the vaccination campaign to reduce the number of infections, as well as the number of deaths. HPV vaccines were made available for women up to 45 years of age last October. The move was a monumental step in the fight against the virus, as previously, only males and females between the ages of 9 and 15 were offered the vaccine.