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Home  >  News
HPV Vaccination Begins
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Honourable Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan demonstrated his support for the Ministry’s of Health’s Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme when he visited 2 primary schools today to launch the vaccination programme.  Over 80 girls presented parental consent forms to receive the HPV vaccination at the El Socorro South Government Primary School and Sacred Heart Girls Roman Catholic School.  The voluntary HPV vaccination programme targets 20,000 girls aged 11 to 12 years during this first phase and utilizes the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Programme of Immunization and District Health Visitors at the nation’s primary and secondary schools.

Nurse Fritza Suraj administers the very first HPV vaccine to Selina Pitambar at El Socorro South Govt Primary School. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan looks on at right

The Honourable Minister commended the students and their parents for taking responsibility for the girls’ health by getting the HPV vaccine.  “If we miss the 11 to 12 age group prior to our girls becoming sexually active, then we increase these girls’ chances of contracting cervical cancer later in their lives.  What this vaccine is doing is giving our young girls a chance to prevent cervical cancer later in their lives.  The benefits of taking the HPV vaccine now more than outweigh the problems that they may face with cervical cancer later on.”

Health Minister answers the questions of a Sacred Heart Girls RC student about the HPV vaccine.  At centre is Permanent Secretary Antonia Popplewell

Cervical cancer is a growing threat as well as a growing health issue among our female population. In Latin America and Caribbean countries there are 500,000 cases of cervical cancer annually and 260,000 women die each year from cervical cancer.  Research has provided evidence that HPV is the cause of 90% of cervical cancer cases globally. This sexually transmitted infection is one of the most common STIs and statistics show that 80% of females contract the sexually transmitted infection within their lifetime.  HPV types 16 and 18 cause about 70% of cervical cancers. HPV types 6 and 11 cause about 90% of anogenital warts.  In spite of all this, cervical cancer is the only cancer which can be prevented, and the only cancer for which a vaccine is available.

Nurse Alicia Dillingy adminsters the HPV vaccine to Samantha Hollingsworth at Sacred Heart Girls. At is is Health Minister Fuad Khan. Principal Vanessa Yearwood is at centre

The cervical cancer rate in Trinidad and Tobago is two times higher than worldwide. A study showed that 35.4% of healthy women age 16 to 65 years were HPV DNA positive in the cervix. The highest prevalence among women is between 25-34 years. A recently concluded study conducted by the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the Ministry of Health revealed that HPV 16 and 18 was the most frequently detected type responsible for 83.8% of the burden. Multiple HPV infections were found in 12% of the women in Tobago and in Jamaica it was 34% when compared.  As a result of this high incidence, the HPV vaccine, which targets the HPV 16, 18, 6 and 11 strains, will be offered as a preventative method to prepubescent girls between the ages 11 to 12.

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan explains the importance of taking the HPV vaccine to the students at El Socorro South Govt Primary School

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan explains the importance of taking the HPV vaccine to the students at Sacred Heart Girls RC School

Sacred Heart Girls RC students listen attentively to Health Minister Fuad Khan as he speaks to them about the HPV vaccine


What is HPV?
The Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is a very common virus affecting both men and women.  Most men and women will be affected at some time in their lives.  HPV is one of the most commonly transmitted STIs which can be contracted through contact with infected skin. There are various types of HPV which affect the genital area and can develop into cervical cancer, precancerous lesions or genital warts. 
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer in the cervix and occurs when the cells lining the cervix gradually develop precancerous changes. These changes develop into a cancerous tumour.  It is recommended that females have frequent pap tests to allow early detection of cervical cancer.
What makes a person more likely to get HPV?
Only sexually active persons may contract HPV.  The probability of contraction is increased if one has several partners, especially if the male partner also has several partners.  If the individual is sexually active before the age of 25 the probability of contraction is also increased.
Why is the HPV vaccine recommended for girls 11 to 12 years of age?
The HPV vaccine is most effective if a female is vaccinated before her first sexual experience.  It is not as effective for females who were previously exposed to the HPV virus.
How can we prevent HPV?
For females 9 – 26 years, a HPV vaccine may be administered to reduce the risk of the following diseases caused by the HPV virus:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Vulvar and vaginal cancers
  • Genital warts
  • Precancerous cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal lesions

How does the HPV vaccine work?
The HPV vaccine stimulates the body to produce antibodies that protect against the various types of HPV which cause cervical cancer.
How effective is the immunization?
Research has shown that the vaccine is 90% effective in preventing cervical cancers.
How long does protection last?
The vaccine has proven to have long lasting protection.
How safe is the HPV vaccine?
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tested and monitored the vaccine ensuring its safety.
What are the side effects of the HPV vaccine?
Like any other vaccine, the most common side effects are:

  • Mild pain, swelling, itching, burning, and redness at the injection site;

Other side effects may include:

  • Headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and fainting

If your child experiences any common symptom, immediately consult your health care provider.
How is the HPV vaccine given?
The vaccine is given in 3 doses over a period of 6 months:

  • Dose 1: at a date you and your health care provider choose.
  • Dose 2: 2 months after Dose 1
  • Dose 3: 6 months after Dose 1.

Following immunization, do not rub or apply hot compresses to the site.  Conditions will dissipate within 72 hours of receiving the vaccine.
Is it compulsory to have the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is a voluntary vaccine. Consent must first be obtained from the parent/guardian.
Who should receive the HPV vaccine?
You should not get the vaccine if you have, or have had:

  • An allergic reaction after getting a first dose of the HPV vaccine.
  • A severe allergic reaction to yeast.

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