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THE second cohort of grade-seven girls are now benefiting from the Ministry of Health's Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme.
The move is a proactive measure by the Government to protect girls against cervical cancer, which takes the lives of hundreds of women in the country per year and hundreds of thousands more worldwide.
The vaccine is being administered to girls aged nine to 14 and is free of cost. It is not mandatory.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie said the initial target for the programme is 22,000 girls.
“We actually started before the school term with the school medicals. We went into the schools, sensitised the parents and teachers, so we had a running start before the programme actually started in schools. It's actually in October that we have gone out into some of the schools (to administer the vaccine),” she noted.
Dr Bisasor-McKenzie was addressing a post-United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) press conference held at the Ministry's New Kingston offices yesterday.
She noted that this time around, persons are a lot more aware of the programme and its benefits.
“We are still going to have some persons who will chose not to (take the vaccine), but our aim is to encourage persons to (get) informed as much as possible, so that persons can make their decisions on an informed basis,” she pointed out.
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Jamaica, and remains a significant public-health concern.
Current estimates indicate that every year, 392 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer; 185 die from the disease, with the majority of deaths occurring in women between 40 and 64 years of age.
The health ministry started administering the HPV vaccine to grade-seven girls in October last year.