Health

FAQ about HPV — Part 2

Sunday, October 14, 2018

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For the month of October, Your Health Your Wealth, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, will be discussing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cancers including cervical cancer.

Q: How do you know that the HPV vaccine works?

A: Globally, many studies have proven that HPV vaccination works extremely well, decreasing the number of infections and HPV-related cancer cases. In countries like Australia, Canada, England, and Scotland that introduced a population-wide vaccination programme many years ago, cases of adolescent girls and women with HPV infections and abnormal Pap smears showing pre-cancers have dramatically decreased. These countries are now on the path to eliminating cervical cancer.

Q: Can the HPV vaccine cause infertility?

A: No, there is no link between HPV vaccine and the ability to have children in the future. Girls who got the vaccine years ago have gone on to have healthy pregnancies and children, and are now living healthy, productive lives knowing that they are protected from a deadly cancer. The vaccine can actually help protect women from future fertility problems linked to cervical cancer or treatment for cervical cancer, like radiation or surgery to remove the womb. We recommend that you talk to your gynaecologist for more information.

Q: What about my son? Can he get the vaccine?

Cervical cancer is a significant public health problem affecting Jamaicans, and vaccination of girls is recommended as the best protection against cervical cancer. The Ministry of Health is therefore offering the HPV vaccine to only girls at this time. If most girls in our population are vaccinated against HPV, this will decrease the chances of boys getting infected with HPV. So, boys will also benefit from protection against HPV if only girls are vaccinated. Your son can get the vaccine privately and benefit from protection against cancers of the mouth, anus and genitals, and other HPV-related conditions.

Clarification

The following clarification is in relation to a question posed in the article “FAQ about HPV — Part 1” on September 30, 2018:

Q: My daughter is in grade eight. Can she get the vaccine?

A: The Ministry of Health is offering the vaccine to grade seven girls at this time. The ministry will also be offering the vaccine to girls who are now in grade eight who were not vaccinated while they were in grade seven in the last academic year (2017/2018), when the HPV vaccination programme started. Therefore, the girls that are now in grade eight will be offered the vaccine along with the girls that have started grade seven this academic year.

Answers compiled by Dr Melody Ennis of the Ministry of Health.

What are your concerns, what are you not sure about? We would love to hear from you. Submit your questions to healthandwealth@jamaicaobserver.com. You can also contact the Ministry of Health at 1-888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683) or hpvinfo@moh.gov.jm

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