The Ministry of Health has formulated a special taskforce to introduce the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in Antigua and Barbuda on July 1, 2018, which is expected to reduce HPV related cancers here.
Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, as well as some cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum and throat.
Speaking at the “Fight Against Cancers in Antigua and Barbuda” stakeholders meeting on Thursday, Consultant Pediatrician, Dr. Joycelyn Walter-Thomas said, “this lifesaving preventative measure will be effective in reducing the deaths from HPV related cancers especially cervical cancer and other diseases”.
She added that boys and girls from the ages of nine to 13 are being targeted as the priority group for this initiative because it is at this age that the body produces its “best defense”.
“The ministry was taking the position that the best approach to life course preventative interventions has to be holistic from birth to adult,” she further stated.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 4, is currently on island and is designed to provide immunity against low risk type HPV 6 and HPV 11 — which cause 90 percent of genital warts — and high-risk type HPV 16 and HPV 18 which cause 70 percent of HPV-related cancer in women and 90 percent of HPV-related cancer in men.
“The vaccine is shown to be very safe and tested on more than 20,000 females in 33 countries and 4,000 males in 18 countries before it was approved for use,” Walter-Thomas said.
Receiving the vaccine is optional and will be delivered via a community-based approach and free of cost to parents at the clinics and as well as private pediatricians.
The Cervical Cancer Task Force has also developed a plan of action for prevention and control of what is described as a “deadly disease” by focusing on four main areas: increasing information, education and communication; expanding screening programmes; introduction of the HPV vaccination; and improve access to cancer treatment and palliative care.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)