Jamaica Gleaner / While agreeing with claims that the Ministry of Health failed to implement strategies that would properly sensitise the public about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, representatives of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) say that they remain in support of the programme as the country stands to benefit in the long run.

The health ministry recently began administering the HPV vaccine in schools. Several principals, parents, and other stakeholders have complained about the lack of consultation ahead of the process.

Addressing a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week, JASL Programme Development Manager Davina Gayle-Williams said that the vaccine was nothing new, and once the proper procedures are adhered to, there would be positive gains.

“What we at JASL are saying is that the ministry should have done more public education around the issue before introducing it because this is something that is being done worldwide to protect young girls from cervical cancer,” Gayle-Williams said.

“It’s nothing that Jamaica is doing in a vacuum. We just felt like the ministry should have done a better job in sensitising the public.”

JASL Executive Director Kandasi Levermore also stressed that it was a good move, especially in light of the long waiting time for Pap smears in public-health facilities.

“The means through which we test for cervical cancer is a Pap smear. You can do a Pap smear if you are sexually active, but they tell you a specific age group. The turnaround time on a Pap smear test, however, in any public facility, can last anywhere between six months to a year until somebody is fully diagnosed, develops cancer, and dies, and we have seen that. The turnaround time is a real issue, and so why wait for a turnaround time when you can put in a vaccination that prevents young girls from getting cervical cancer?” she said.

“HPV leads to cervical cancer. The truth is, boys do not have a cervix, (but) they do develop other diseases as a result. An issue such as anal warts can be uncomfortable, but the cost to treat those is nothing in comparison to treating cancer, and the Government, I think, is being strategic because they have to reduce those health costs.”

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