Jamaica Gleaner / Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton is seeking to allay fears about any serious side effects of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, assuring the public that it was safe.
“More than 200 million doses have been given around the world with no major side effects due to the vaccine. The most common side effects of the vaccine include redness, swelling and tenderness to the injection sight. Other less common effects include fever, nausea and upset stomach,” the minister told members of the House of Representative yesterday.
Emphasising the importance of administering the HPV vaccine, which is aimed at preventing cervical cancer, Tufton said it was the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Jamaica and remains a significant public-health concern.
The minister said current estimates indicate that every year, 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, 185 die from the disease, with the majority of deaths occurring in women between 40 and 64 years of age.
Pointing out that the vaccination was not mandatory, Tufton said it was administered to 309 grade seven girls at one Corporate Area and three rural high schools on Monday when it was rolled out, but at least 20 opted not to take the vaccine. The schools are Oberlin, Titchfield, Happy Grove and Papine.
“The acceptance rate is about where we anticipate it to be in terms of those persons who had opted to access,” said Tufton.
In the meantime, Dayton Campbell, opposition spokesman on health, said he was not opposed to the vaccination but had some concerns with the way the programme was implemented.
He said enough information was not provided to members of the public as part of the HPV vaccination exercise.
“For instance, abstinence and safe sex practices are things that must be emphasised, because that is the surest way of preventing any kind of STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and so that has to be at the forefront of any kind of communication that is coming out of the ministry,” he said.
Campbell contended that “because it is a sexually transmitted infection, it becomes a moral issue for some persons when you try to vaccinate their daughter”.
HPV prevalence studies conducted in Jamaica in 2010 revealed that:
1. The overall prevalence of any HPV infection was 54 per cent.
2. The cancer-causing HPV types were detected in 34.9 per cent of women.
3. HPV types 16 and 18 were found in 10.5 per cent of the general population and in 71 per cent of women with abnormal Pap smears. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for most HPV-caused cancers.