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St. Maarten minister De Weever: Human Papilloma Virus vaccine programme may be expanded


PHILIPSBURG–While the primary focus of government’s Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine campaign is girls ages nine to ten; the programme may be expanded for boys, Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Wednesday. He told reporters that girls are the primary focus at the moment because statistics show that cervical cancer is more common among this gender.

“We are looking to expand the programme for boys, but just like the girl power programme for young women took a few years before it moved over to the boys, in the same way we have to realise what’s the biggest risk for us right now,” the minister said. “We have to go after the young women who we know are having cervical cancer at younger ages… That’s what we are seeing in the clinics and from the Obstetrics and Gynecology OBGYN, so we have to make sure we protect them first then eventually hopefully, the young me as well but there are financial consequences to that.”

The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour officially launched the implementation of HPV vaccines for girls earlier this month to protect girls from developing cervical cancer in the future. The vaccination drive was set to start with the distribution of vaccination consent forms and information sheets at all primary schools.

School girls ages 9-10 will be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, which is to prevent 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases, according to CPS. The vaccines will be administered in October, after the girls’ parents/ guardians have signed the consent forms and returned them to the schools.  Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. HPV is a highly infectious virus transmitted through genital contact during sexual activity. In almost all cases cervical cancer does not give any symptoms until it is quite advanced and cannot be treated anymore. All women can get cervical cancer, which occurs most often in women over age 30, but it can also affect younger women.

Almost all cervical cancers (99 per cent) are caused by an infection with HPV. Cervical cancer may be prevented through vaccination against HPV and by regular PAP smears and  HPV-DNA testing. Within the national vaccination schedule only the target group of girls aged 9 and 10 will be receiving the HPV vaccine free of charge. Other girls and women can be vaccinated via their family doctor. The vaccine will be given in the upper arm via an injection. Three doses of the HPV vaccine will be administered within a six-month period at the schools by medical staff and nurses of Section Youth Health Care.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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