HPV vaccine available for women – Cervical cancer campaign starts at schools

POSTED: 09/11/13 3:15 PM

St. Maarten – Health Minister Cornelius de Weever announced yesterday the official launch of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) National Vaccination Program amongst young girls. HPV is a virus that causes cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women.

With the start of the program, the Youth Health Care’s target group is girls aged 9 and 10. The reason to start with these ages is that research showed that their immune system respond the best to the vaccine, which will decrease the change of cervical cancer for 70% at a later age.

Cervical cancer is a cancer from the cervix, which is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus. In almost all cases cervical cancer does not give any symptoms until it’s quite advanced and cannot be treated. The HPV vaccine used in the program protects against types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Types 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of all genital warts and types 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers.

“As of next week all schools will receive a consent form for the vaccination, as well an information letter on the vaccine and cervical cancer, which will be handed out to the parents. After we receive the forms we then go to the schools to provide the girls with the vaccine,” Youth Heath Care Physician Josien van Wijk said.

According to Gynecologist Dr. Randall Friday, this program is important for woman especially when they are getting older, to start at an early age with preventing the cancer. He said that there is an increase of cervical cancer and that most women in the age category of 35-40 years are the most susceptible for it.

Friday said that the HPV virus is highly recommended to women up to 26 years, who have been sexually active. The HPV virus is a highly infectious virus transmitted through genital contact (private parts) during sexual activity. He added that after the vaccine has been given, a register will be developed to remind women to get s regular Pap-smear (a screening test to detects potentially cancerous processes) in order to stay healthy and cancer free.

The vaccine is given in the upper arm via an injection by the nursing medical staff of the Youth Health Care. Three doses of the HPV vaccine will be given within a six months period. Government will be responsible for the payment of the vaccines for the target group, any other person has to get a doctor’s prescription and pay for it.

“This vaccination program is a landmark for the Ministry of Health,” Minister de Weever said. “For years St. Maarten has had a national vaccination program, but this program has a special character; it is focused on our youth to protect their health against cervical cancer. This is a first step in cervical cancer prevention.”

The main focus for the Youth Health Care for the coming three months is to spread the poster, vaccine information and information on cervical cancer at schools, clinics, doctors, gynecologists and pharmacies to give the people an idea of the impotency and what the virus means. As well on radio and TV and in town hall meetings where questions can be ask and to have the opportunity to meet the Collective Prevention Services’ section Youth Health Care.

For more information about the HPV vaccine contact the Collective Prevention Services at 542-3003/542-2078/5423553 or go to their Facebook page to find their Frequently Asked Questions form.

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