Within a few days, Guyana through its Ministry of Health, will begin to administer the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations to young girls aged 13-years old, as part of the attempt to protect them against cervical cancer.
It is expected that over 7,000 girls will be vaccinated against this disease over the next six months.
According to former Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, every female aged 11, 12 and 13 years old will eventually be vaccinated once this programme commences and within the next five years, all females will be vaccinated before they complete the age of 11.
Kaieteur News was made to understand that the first batch of vaccines, which consists of 20,000 doses, arrived in the country almost one month ago.
Mr Ramsammy could not begin vaccination until the monitoring control devices, which were packed with the vaccines, were returned to the manufacturers to be tested.
This was necessary since the vaccines are very sensitive to the conditions in environment and need to be kept at one storage temperature throughout its packaging and shipping.
Hence the vaccines were shipped with monitoring devices to ensure that recommended storage temperature was maintained throughout the lengthy transportation journey to Guyana.
It was only until one week ago that the manufacturers of the devices gave the “go ahead” for the Ministry of Health to begin vaccination, since it was confirmed that the vaccines were continuously stored within the recommended storage temperature.
The number of girls to be provided with HPV vaccine is expected to grow to about 40,000 and the cost is expected to increase to about US$60M per year from 2012.
Spending almost $30M on cervical cancer and chemotherapy medicines, the Ministry has already provided almost $10M for radiology treatments.
In 2012, the Health Ministry plans to introduce HPV testing to identify women without cervical cancer for their HPV status.
If they are shown to have the virus, they will be considered as “high risk” for cervical cancer.
These women will be encouraged to obtain regular medical check-ups with doctors at least once per year.
Cervical cancer is one of the main cancers in women worldwide. Cancer represents one of the major causes of deaths and is currently ranked as the number four main cause of death in Guyana.
One of the most common cancers in Guyana is cervical cancer.
It should be noted that 168 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer last year and 68 deaths were also recorded due to this disease.
Studies have shown that the HPV is the causative agent for more than 85 percent of cervical cancer. The main transmission route for HPV is through sex. The modes of transmission of this virus are similar to that of HIV.
Based on this, Guyana has included HPV vaccine as an important component of its national policy and strategy for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.
The most developed part of the National Policy and Strategy is the Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) technology, which is already in use.
Almost 20,000 Guyanese women have benefitted from VIA screening in the last three years.
Already this programme has been rolled out in many of the regions where doctors, nurses and other health officials have been trained.
In other regions, the service is available through outreach programmes. (Kristen Macklingam)
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