The Health Ministry is imploring parents and guardians in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to protect their daughters against cervical cancer by allowing them to be immunized with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.
The ministry of health has began offering the vaccine to girls age 10-11, free of cost, through the school health program.
This move is a proactive measure by the Government to protect girls against cervical cancer, which takes the lives of hundreds of women worldwide, each year.
In an interview with WEFM News earlier today, Sister Ferosa Roache, Director of the HIV/AIDS Unit said that HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, which can spread through skin-to-skin contact or through sexual activity.
Sister Roache explained that some HPV infections can lead to men and women getting cancer of the mouth/ throat, and anus/rectum. Men can also get penile HPV cancer, while in women, HPV infection can also cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancers. Some HPV types can also cause warts.
She explained that there are two HPV vaccines that are now being marketed in many countries throughout the world – a bivalent and a quadrivalent vaccine. She said both vaccines are highly efficacious in preventing infection with virus types 16 and 18, which are together responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases globally.
Sister Roache said that under the current initiative, the girls aged 10-1, will receive two doses of the medication six months apart for full protection.
“It is proven that once you are sexually active you will contract the HPV at some point in your life. So we are focusing on giving the girls at that age group because we believe that at that age group they have not been exposed to any sexual activity. So the focus is on preventing the infection because sometimes the body clears itself of the virus but there are some persons with prolonged infection who will go on to develop cervical cancer. So our focus is on preventing the infection and preventing cervical cancer because we know cancer is really a very expensive disease to threat, and the pain and suffering that go along with it,” the Director of the HIV/AIDS Unit said.
She said the HPV vaccine is not mandatory and assured the public that the there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is unsafe.
“I would just like parents to know that the vaccine is very safe and before any vaccine is ever approved for use, extensive testing has to be done and this takes several years….with any vaccine or any drug you put into your body you will have side effects but the side effects are generally mild,” Ms. Roache said.
According to Sister Roache among the most known possible side effects of the HPV vaccine are redness, swelling and pain at the injection site, headache and fever. There may be fainting in some extreme cases.