Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Ministry of Health wishes to reassure the public that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine is safe and effective and that the Ministry’s HPV vaccination programme is not mandatory but a voluntary programme. Over 60 million HPV vaccines have been introduced in 40 countries. The current scientific knowledge compiled and shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on HPV vaccines shows that the HPV vaccine is safe for the intended purpose. The accumulating evidence on the safety of HPV is reassuring. The most common adverse events were injection-site reactions, most of which were mild or moderate in intensity. Headache and fever were the most commonly reported systemic adverse reactions.
The Ministry also assures that as part of its educational campaign, meetings were held with the various stakeholders from since September 2012 before the commencement of the HPV vaccination programme in January this year. Unfortunately some of the organizations invited could not attend the sensitization meetings.
The organizations which attended were : the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, ASJA School Board, Anglican School Board, Inter-Religious Organization of Trinidad and Tobago National Primary Schools Principals Association (NAPSPA), National Parents Teachers Association (NPTA), Family Planning Association of T&T (FPATT), Young Women’s Christian’s Association (YWCA) and Advocate for Safe Parenthood (ASPIRE).
The organization invited but which could not attend were: the Hindu School Board, Catholic School Board, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TUTTA) and Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women
With the approval of the Ministry of Education, the HPV vaccination programme was implemented utilizing the Ministry of Health’s school-based Expanded Programme of Immunization at the nation’s primary and secondary schools. However because of the concerns of some denominational boards, a decision has been taken to suspend the administration of the HPV vaccination through the Ministry’s school-based immunization programme.
Arrangements will be put in place for the continuation of the HPV vaccination programme through the community health centres. Parent wishing to have their daughter receive the HPV vaccine for protection against cervical cancer can call or visit their nearest community health centre to make an appointment for the vaccine. Any school wishing to make arrangements for the immunization of their students against cervical cancer can contact the Ministry’s Expanded Programme of Immunization Deaprtment at 627-9085 to make arrangements for the Ministry’s District Health Visitors to visit the school.
Cervical cancer is a growing threat as well as a growing health issue among our female population. The cervical cancer rate in Trinidad and Tobago is two times higher than worldwide. As a result of this high incidence, the HPV vaccine, which targets the HPV 16, 18, 6 and 11 strains, is being offered as a preventative method to girls between the ages 11 to 12. The voluntary HPV vaccination programme targets 20,000 girls aged 11 to 12 years during this first phase. The Ministry assures that the benefits of taking the HPV vaccine now more than outweigh the problems that our girls may face with cervical cancer later on in their lives.
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.
More information is available to parents about the HPV vaccine and its safety on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-hcp.htm and at the Ministry of Health website at www.health.gov.tt
Remember vaccines save lives!