Health ministry now offering HPV shots for boys
SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — The Ministry of Health and Wellness is now offering human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, a recognised tool against cervical cancer, to boys.
Since October 2017 the shots have been offered to seventh-grade girls but the inclusion of boys is a new push in the fight against the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the world and in Jamaica.
According to the health ministry’s website, approximately 80 per cent of all sexually active individuals will be infected with HPV at some point in their life and most people get infected the first time they have sexual intercourse.
“We are also offering it to the boys, nine to 14 years, because they are at risk for genital warts that this virus can cause. If they get infected when they have sexual relations with girls, they can infect the girls and they get cervical cancer,” said Dr Marcia Graham, Westmoreland’s medical officer for health (MOH).
She was addressing Thursday’s meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.
HPV is transmitted through contact with infected genital skin, mucous membranes (such as eyes, mouth and nose), or body fluids, and can be transmitted through sexual contact. It can live in the external environment for long periods and is highly transmissible.
According to Graham, when the vaccines were first offered to girls, aged nine to 15, shots were administered in two doses but that has since been reduced to one. The health ministry is running a major campaign to educate the public about cervical cancer, its causes and the importance of vaccination.
During Thursday’s meeting the MOH stressed that the shots are also available for young women.
“Females up to 26 years of age can get the vaccine. So, let’s maximise the protection of our children,” she urged.
It is estimated that 392 Jamaican women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and 185 die from the disease.
At Thursday’s meeting Graham also used the opportunity to bat for vaccination of children in general.
“Having your child fully immunised for age is one way to protect them from avoidable, preventable diseases,” she urged.