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HPV vaccine 'safe, free of cost and optional', assures Tufton

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton again sought to reassure Jamaicans that the ministry's drive to administer the highly controversial Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is to protect against cancer of the cervix, is safe, free of cost and optional.

“The bivalent HPV vaccine is being offered to girls in Grade seven that is, girls ages 9 to 14 years of age, (the majority being 11-13 years old) free of cost. This vaccine is not mandatory,” the minister said in a statement to the House of Representatives this afternoon.

In providing a rationale for the vaccination, Tufton outlined that the ministry has identified cervical cancer as a major public health problem in Jamaica as almost 50 per cent of the women who are diagnosed each year will die from this preventable disease.

He added that the ministry has therefore introduced the bivalent HPV vaccine to provide 90-100 per cent protection against HPV types 16 and 18 into the routine immunisation programme.

He explained that the HPV vaccine was included in the national schedules of France (2007), the United Kingdom (2008) and the Netherlands (2009), Canada (2007-2009), Mexico (2012), Panama (2008), USA and Puerto Rico (2006), Bermuda (2008), St Maarten and Trinidad and Tobago (2013), and Barbados (2015) to name a few.

He also stressed that the HPV vaccine is not new and has been available in the private sector for several years now and is therefore not a new vaccine to our population.

The government is targeting approximately 22, 500 girls and each girl will need two doses given six months apart for full protection.

Tufton further explained that the ministry has executed several initiatives to ensure the HPV vaccine programme is rolled out in a safe and effective way, which included for example “Dear Parent” letters and accompanying fact sheets distributed to schools for inclusion in the Grade seven school packages at the end of the last academic year to sensitise parents / guardians about the planned vaccine introduction.

He ended his statement explaining that the ministry will continue to provide credible information on the HPV vaccine by engaging all stakeholders; and conducting public awareness and sensitisation sessions islandwide.

“The Ministry of Health will update the country as we administer the HPV vaccine across the island. We know that this is a new vaccine so we have been monitoring very closely and putting several measures in place out of an abundance of caution in the interest of protecting our nation,” he said.

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