HPV vaccine countrywide campaign to be re-launched in October.
DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, September 05, 2017
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday announced plans to have approximately 36,000 girls between the ages of 9-16 years immunized with the HPV vaccine.
Representatives from PAHO/WHO and the Public Health Ministry, at a press conference Tuesday said the team is aiming to distribute approximately 40,000 doses of the vaccine among young girls across the regions of Guyana. The implementation of the campaign is slated for October 16, 2017.
According to PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, the main purpose of the HPV vaccine is to prevent cervical cancer. He added the vaccine also protects against genital warts in both females and males.
Ministry of Public Health, Maternal & Child Health Officer (ag), Dr. Ertinesa Hamilton, in her presentation on the countrywide HPV relaunch, said with the goal of reducing cervical cancer locally, they will be partnering with a number of stakeholders.
Hamilton said, “We will be working in conjunction with the Ministry of Education to immunize girls in school. We have already begun the partnership with our private pediatricians for mothers who do not want to take their child to have the vaccine at school… and for all girls that we cannot reach. Especially those in remote areas and are out of school, to have outreach activities in the regions, in their villages so that we can get every girl within that age group immunized.”
Meanwhile, Dr. William Adu-Krow reminded that while not new, the HPV vaccine has been administered in several countries. He described it as the best chance of preventing cervical cancer.
Dr. Adu- Krow said according to PAHO/WHO and Public Health data reviews, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Guyanese women, adding, “In Guyana, during the period 2003 – 2012, Guyana recorded 6,518 new cases of cancers for an overall cumulative incidence rate of 867.7 per 100,000 populations. Of the 3,956 sixty percent were females and 2,561 thirty nine percent were males, giving a female to male ratio of 1.54:1.”
The PAHO/WHO representative revealed that Indo-Guyanese were found to have the largest proportion of cases at forty
seven percent, followed by Afro-Guyanese at thirty percent, and eleven percent among mixed races.
It was noted that male cases outnumbered female cases, at fifty two percent and forty eight percent respectively.
In relation to stigmas and myths about the HPV vaccine, Dr. Ertinesa Hamilton shared that the team will utilise a communication campaign to get stakeholders on board.
“We recognised that a lot that came out of that (the myths) had to do with not having enough information. And that’s why the focus this time around is having a communication campaign where we have enough information out to the general public,” Dr. Hamilton said.
The HPV Vaccine is said to be the most effective way of preventing cervical cancer, and has lifelong protection. It is most effective among young women between the ages of 9-16 with a minimum of two doses being administered.
Though the Public Health Sector does not have the equipment to conduct HPV testing, Dr. Hamilton advised that there are PAP smears and VIA Screenings available for persons over the age range, and those who are already sexually active.
The Department of Public Information spoke to Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Boyle, who said the vaccine will only be effective in girls not sexually active. She disclosed once the vaccine is administered in such cases it will do no harm, however, it will not aid in preventing the virus, since the person can already be exposed to the infection. Boyle said the vaccine is not to cure the virus, but to only prevent girls from the infection.
In relation to the immunization of boys, Dr. Ertinesa Hamilton said the team will look to vaccinate boys in the future; however, it aims to immunize 95 percent girls with hopes to protect boys as well. The vaccines can be attained through the school programmes as well as local health centers across the regions.
The HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer among girls in Guyana, arrived here in 2011 and was officially launched by the then Ministry of Health in 2012. It was relaunched again in 2016 under the now Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with Merck Sharp and Dhome (MSD).
By: Crystal Stoll