Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Broaden HPV vaccination to schoolboys

Published:Friday | October 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Jennings

The programme to vaccinate all 12-year girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) has run into not unexpected mass opposition, not the least because of the Government's failure to clearly communicate motive to the Jamaican populace.

Fuel has been added to the fire by the obvious lack of communication between the minister of health and the minister of information, the latter who also carries portfolio responsibility for education.

There are several elements of the HPV that need proper clarification and full disclosure by the Jamaican Government, above and beyond possible side effects if they expect to procure popular buy-in. Among these are:

1. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, whose spread is intensified exponentially through promiscuous behaviour. By targeting 12-year-old girls, is the GOJ suggesting the abdication of their own and the responsibility of us as parents to inculcate values and attitudes in our children and, in particular, our pre-adolescent children.

2. HPV is not a gender-limited disease. It is as readily contracted and spread by both males and females (Ref: www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-and-men.htm). This, therefore, begs the question as to why the GOJ vaccination programme is targeting schoolgirls only.

3. The cancers associated with HPV are similarly not gender-limited and include not only cervical and uterine cancers, but is also implicated in prostate cancer (in men).

Is the Government of Jamaica suggesting (subliminally, perhaps) that Jamaica is beyond redemption morally.

More alarming, are they making these high-impact policy decisions without reference to the universally available/accessible knowledge based on this extremely common STI.

- Paul Jennings, PhD, is an international development consultamt. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com