Last update: 06-Dec-2013 9:37 pm
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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HPV vaccinations to resume in September
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme in schools, which targeted girls between 11 and 12, is expected to resume when the new school term opens in September, says Gwendolyn Snaggs, head of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) unit at the Ministry of Health. The programme was launched in January, but flopped due to objections from the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) and other stakeholders.
Of the 20,000 girls targeted in the first phase of the programme, Snaggs said only about 500 have received the vaccine so far. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said after the Catholic Church gave approval, the programme was not restarted because it would have disrupted students in their preparation for the Secondary Entrance Assessment Exam.
The CEBM had advised parents to desist from giving consent for their children to be given the vaccine, citing a lack of information about the vaccine and saying the Ministry of Health did not notify the CEBM about the programme. Snaggs said the EPI has “re-engineered” the programme to meet the requirements of the CEBM and other interest groups.
“Since the programme was suspended due to objections from the Catholic Board, we have been looking at restructuring the flyers and letters to parents. The flyers are more explicit with regard to the adverse effects of the vaccine. “We are also launching a public relations drive where we would use television, radio, and cottage meetings to get parents to buy in.” Snaggs said there have been no reports of any adverse effects in children who took the vaccine.
The Ministry of Health is now awaiting confirmation from the Ministry of Education, which is expected before the new school term, to resume the programme, she added. Khan said he has spoken with Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh who has expressed willingness to resume the programme. Efforts to contact Gopeesingh were unsuccessful.
Six months after the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme in schools flopped, parents are now keen on having their children vaccinated for HPV, however many may find it difficult to get the vaccine outside the school system, the Sunday Guardian found. Snaggs said interest has been growing among parents and many of them have been calling the ministry to find out how they could get their child immunised for HPV.
“Parents are calling, asking for their daughters to be immunised. We have also noticed that some parents are calling for their sons and also some young men have called, asking for the vaccine. “The ministry has been giving the vaccine in low-key to these parents. Parents went to the health centres and their children have received the vaccine,” she said.
However, workers at several health centres—St Helena, Arouca, Carenage, Woodbrook, Moruga, Rio Claro—told the Sunday Guardian last week, via telephone, the vaccine was not available. One health worker at the Moruga Health Centre said: “There was a problem with consent, so we are not giving it at this time.” An official at the Rio Claro Health Centre said she couldn’t say when the vaccine would be available because no official correspondence was received.
Asked to comment on the health centres’ responses, Snaggs said: “This is wrong information. The vaccines are lodged at the county medical offices and although there isn’t a formal programme at the health centre, it could be made available to those who want to get it.” “
Nurses at the health centres need to be more accommodating because the vaccines are available,” she added. Although there is no “formal vaccination programme” at the health centre, Snaggs said, health workers could go to the county medical office and collect the amount needed. Khan said because of storage requirements, health centres needed to apply to the county medical office for the vaccine and the amount needed would be provided.
“It is available. They can put people on a certain date to come in and then request the amount, because they can’t have vaccines sitting in a fridge indefinitely,” he said. He said the application method also prevented vaccines from being sold on the black market. The Point Fortin and Penal Health Centres confirmed that the vaccine was available to girls between 11 and 12.
• January 23, 2013, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan launched the vaccination programme at the El Socorro South Government and Sacred Heart Girls Primary Schools.
• January 29, 2013, the Ministry of Health stopped the programme due to objections from the Catholic Education Board of Management.
• February 7, 2013, the Catholic Church gave approval, under certain conditions: the Ministry of Health must provide full disclosure about the vaccine to parents and implement a programme to monitor students after they receive the vaccine.
• September, 2013, vaccination programme to resume in schools.
• Human Papillomavirus is a collection of viruses that cause warts on different parts of the body. In many cases of HPV, warts do not develop, causing a person to be unaware of his/her infection.
• Of the 100-plus strains of HPV which exist, 40 affect the genital area and are sexually transmitted.
• Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. A condom does not protect one from HPV.
• At least half of people who are sexually active will contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives.
• HPV 16 and 18 are high-risk genital strains and cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers worldwide.
• Cancers caused by genital, high-risk strains of HPV include: cervical (99 per cent), anal (90 per cent), vulvar (40 per cent), vaginal (40 per cent), oropharyngeal (12 per cent), oral (3 per cent), and penal.
• The Gardasil vaccine, used by the Ministry of Health, does not protect against all 100 types of HPV, however it is nearly 100 per cent effective in preventing the high-risk strains—HPV 16 and 18—as well as other strains which cause cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva.
• The vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and studies have shown there are no serious side effects.
• Common, mild side effects include pain where the shot was given, fever, headache, and nausea.
• Every year, 93 women die from cervical cancer in T&T.
• Regular pelvic exams and Pap tests are recommended to detect cervical cancer in its earliest stages.
(WebMD, Centre for Disease and Control (CDC), Medscape, Ministry of Health)
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