Antigua to introduce HPV vaccine next month
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda health authorities say they have formulated a special task force to introduce the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine on July 1 this year.
“This lifesaving preventative measure will be effective in reducing deaths from HPV-related cancers especially cervical cancer and other diseases,” said consultant paediatrician, Dr Joycelyn Walter-Thomas.
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.
Speaking at the “Fight Against Cancers in Antigua and Barbuda” stakeholders meeting on Thursday, she said boys and girls between ages nine and 13 are being targeted as the priority group for this initiative.
"The ministry was taking the position that the best approach to life course preventative interventions has to be holistic from birth to adult,” she said.
Health officials said the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 4, is designed to provide immunity against low-risk type HPV 6 and HPV 11, which cause 90 per cent of genital warts, and high-risk type HPV 16 and HPV 18, which cause 70 percent of HPV-related cancer in women and 90 per cent 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.
The authorities said that receiving the vaccine is optional and will be delivered through a community-based approach and free of cost to parents at clinics as well as private doctor offices.