Ministry to host town hall meetings on HPV vaccine

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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THE Ministry of Health will on October 31 host its first town hall meeting to give people the opportunity to ask questions about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the vaccine being used to treat young girls and boys before exposure to the disease.

The ministry, in a release yesterday, said it is creating an opportunity for to pose their queries, openly air their misgivings or even suspicions, through a series of islandwide town hall meetings.

“These town hall meetings will be up close and interactive [while there will be] question-and-answer sessions with medical experts in the fields of gynaecology and paediatrics,” said the release. “These town hall meetings are where persons, especially parents and guardians, will be encouraged to speak freely to matters relating to the disease and the proposed vaccine being used in secondary schools across the island,” it added.

The first meeting on October 31 will be held at the Webster Memorial Church, 53 Half Way Tree Road, St Andrew, where the ministry has promised that it will be actively listening to the concerns of parents, teachers and anyone else who wants more information on its drive towards vaccinating the nation's girls.

Dr Melody Ennis, acting director of the Family Health Unit in the ministry; Dr Clive Lai, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Dr Abigail Harrison, paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, are scheduled to speak at the town hall meeting.

The ministry said a survivor of cervical cancer as well as a young girl who has received the vaccine will also address the meeting.

The ministry has, since September, been campaigning to bring awareness to the dangers of HPV and its connection to cervical cancer. HPV is a group of about 200 viruses that infect skin tissue.

According to one report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life if they do not get vaccinated for it. It is for this reason, the health ministry said, it has targeted young girls from ages nine to 14, who are more likely not exposed to the virus as yet.

The HPV vaccine is available to women up to age 26 as a means to fight cervical cancer. However, the vaccine is most effective if given before exposure to the virus, which is why many countries across the globe have moved to include HPV vaccine programmes as part of its routine immunisation schedule for pre-teen girls.

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