Ministry of Education, Guyana

Sunday, 22 October 2017 09:50

HPV vaccination campaign to be rolled out in private schools this week

news 20171023 1As the ongoing Human Papilloma Virus [HPV] campaign gains traction, the Ministry of Public Health is looking to expand it even further.

Maternal and Child Health [MCH] Officer Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton, on Friday, said that the Ministry is moving to take the campaign to privately-owned primary and secondary schools as early as this week.
So far, 24 privately-owned schools in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) have been reached by the MCH department to explain the ongoing national drive to inoculate 36,000 girls, between the ages of nine and 13 at primary and secondary schools, against HPV.
HPV has long been found to cause cervical cancer – the second leading cancer among Guyanese women.
Globally, there are some 530,000 new cases of cervical cancer detected annually which kills approximately 266,000 women or 50.2 per cent.
In the Caribbean, Guyana ranks highest with an incidence rate of 46.9 per cent and a mortality rate of 21.0 per 100,000 persons. Cervical cancer kills an estimated 100 Guyanese women every year, making it the leading cause of cancer mortality among Guyanese women.
Some 33 per cent of these deaths are due to the five leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity and using tobacco and alcohol
As it continues to wage war against cervical cancer, the Ministry’s MCH Department will be looking to send out notices on the HPV campaign to all private education institutions on the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara, and Georgetown, Dr. Hamilton said.
With guaranteed support from major international institutions such as PAHO/WHO, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and local private sector and civil society bodies, the government last week launched its renewed HPV push in Bartica, Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni).
Even though 21,600 persons voluntarily received the vaccine during the inaugural 2014 – 2016 campaign, it eventually ran out of steam mainly due to lack of public education, negative local press and counter-attacks from overseas-based interest groups through their local chapters.
There were no adverse effects from the administration of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in Guyana, despite publicly-voiced fears that patients will suffer a number of side-effects. Among these were claims that there will be pain at the injection-site, sore throat, swelling, itching, fever, headaches, nausea, tiredness, joint or muscle pain, vomiting, insomnia [lack of seep] runny or stuffy nose or tooth pain. Many of these are known side-effects of some vaccines that have proven to be effective.
Despite some concerns, a historical review of Guyana’s vaccination efforts reveals that in the 1980s, the percentage coverage for BCG, for instance, was 68 percent. This figure climbed to 98 per cent by 2016. In 1995, polio coverage was at 87 percent and by last year it was almost totally eradicated. Guyana moved its measles coverage from 67 per cent in 1995 to 100 per cent last year.
Vaccination is the number one public health success story in Guyana notwithstanding the prevailing belief embraced by some that diseases do not exist, Dr. Hamilton said.
However, Guyana’s 40-year-old Expanded Programme on Immunisation [EPI] has been modified over time and has become more robust and efficient through the regular monitoring and evaluation by specialists. As a consequence, it has been very difficult over the decades for diseases to migrate across borders into Guyana from its South American neighbours because of the strength of the country’s immunisation programme, Dr. Hamilton pointed out.
Success, she added, must also be attributed to the political will exhibited by successive Guyana governments to guarantee the public is protected from all types of diseases.
Currently, the Guyana EPI strategy provides coverage for 16 antigens: Polio virus, Pneumococcal bacteria, Yellow Fever, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus Influenza, Tetanus, Pertussis, Diphtheria, Varicella, Meningococcal bacteria, HPV, Rota virus and Tuberculosis.
Guyana was among the first set of countries in the region of the Americas that eradicated Measles and Rubella and this was certified in 2016, Dr. Hamilton noted.
In the next six months, under the EPI, several projects will be launched including the introduction of the birth dose of Hepatitis B vaccine and the design and piloting of the electronic vaccine records.
According to information out of the Ministry, consultancies are being conducted and cost benefit analysis of the HPV vaccine are being done as is an assessment of the vaccine distribution and pre-introduction assessment of the HPV vaccine.
The world made significant immunological progress in the 20th century. However, the global political and economic commitments must keep in step with scientific achievements to give inhabitants of this planet a chance to be perennially healthier, Dr. Hamilton highlighted.
Moreover, the renewed HPV campaign in Guyana has reminded stakeholders that vaccines remain powerful medical interventions that unleash “powerful biological, social, and cultural reactions.”
While historically, public reactions to this medical intervention are strong, Dr. Hamilton said the process has moved from “awe of a seemingly scientific miracle to skepticism and outright hostility.”
“Thankfully the latter has never happened in Guyana.”


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