Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Denominational boards force cancellation of HPV vaccines at schools

The Ministry of Health reported Tuesday that it has partially suspended its Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination program for young girls because of pressure from denominational school boards.

The program will be available at community health centres instead of being administered at primary and secondary schools. Parents can make appointments at these centres if they wish to have their daughters immunized to protect them from cervical cancer.

The ministry explained in an official statement that it had meetings with the some stakeholders before starting the program. However it said the Hindu School Board, Catholic School Board, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women did not attend those sessions.

It began the program this year at primary and secondary schools. However some school boards objected and the ministry decided to suspend the project and shift it to community centres. 

The Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) said it "strongly recommends that parents of children attending Roman Catholic schools should desist from allowing their children to be vaccinated with Gardasil, pending further advice from CEBM".

The Roman Catholic Church said its board of management cited "serious dangers" from use of the vaccine (including death) which have been associated with the drug.

However the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday the HPV vaccine is safe and effective and that the vaccination program is voluntary.

The following information is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Why is the HPV vaccine important?

Genital HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers— like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts. Genital warts are not life-threatening. But they can cause emotional stress and their treatment can be very uncomfortable. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have visible genital warts at any point in time.

Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?

HPV vaccination is recommended with either vaccine for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series; HPV vaccine can also be given to girls beginning at age 9 years. 

Will sexually active females benefit from the vaccine?

Ideally females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV. Females who are sexually active may also benefit from vaccination, but they may get less benefit. This is because they may have already been exposed to one or more of the HPV types targeted by the vaccines. However, few sexually active young women are infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines, so most young women could still get protection by getting vaccinated.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai