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HPV features high for Vaccination, Pap Smear Week

Published:Thursday | April 21, 2022 | 12:08 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


THE HUMAN papilloma and polio vaccines are high on the list of promoted vaccines, as Jamaica and the rest of the Americas celebrate the 20th anniversary of Vaccination Week, April 23 to 30.

According to Dr Marcia Graham, medical officer at the Westmoreland Health Services, this year’s vaccination celebration will be held under the theme, ‘Are you fully vaccinated? #Getallyourshots’ – and is aimed at encouraging persons to get vaccinated to maximise their protection against all vaccine-preventable diseases to include COVID-19.

“In the Vaccination Week of the Americas we will be promoting the human papilloma vaccine,” Graham said in an interview with reporters recently. “During this week, we will be focusing on several different types of vaccines. The human papilloma helps to prevent cervical cancer and we are promoting that vaccine for our females 12-15 years old.”

Raise awareness

“We are encouraging all women who are either sexually active or more than 21 years old to come to their nearest health centre, or visit their private provider to get a Pap smear done, if you haven’t had one done in the last year.”

Graham noted that the week of April 24-30 is also being celebrated as Pap Smear Week, as part of efforts to raise awareness about cervical cancer, now the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women.

A Pap smear is a medical examination that helps to determine abnormalities of the cervix that could lead to cancer. According to 12-year-old data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, close to 200 women died from cervical cancer.

The HPV prevalence studies (2010) found that HPV types 16 and 18 were present in 10.5 per cent of the general population and in 71 per cent of women with abnormal Pap smears. It also shows that cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the world and in Jamaica and remains a significant public health concern.

Current estimates indicate that every year in Jamaica, 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 185 die from the disease.

It is preventable and curable, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. It is the fourth most common form of cancer among women worldwide and the second leading cause of cancer in Jamaican women.

She revealed that doctors and healthcare workers will be on hand to help secure the health needs of children by administering the polio vaccine, as cases of the polio virus have been detected in other countries very recently.

“We are also promoting the polio vaccine which is a drop, because polio cases have been recorded elsewhere and so we are trying to protect ourselves against the polio,” Graham noted.

While not identifying any country, the medical officer of health said: “Polio has been confirmed in more than one country recently so we remain alert to detect any cases in Jamaica as polio is less than a day’s travel away from us by air transport.”

The administering of polio at this time is critical, owing to the fact that some of the nation’s children have missed their polio drops and are vulnerable and should be taken to the nearest health centre.

“Any weakness of limbs in children five to 15 years old should be urgently investigated,” Graham said.