The cervical cancer survivor Juliet Davis supports the introduction of the bivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is administered to thousands of 7th grade students across the island.
Davis, who was diagnosed with cancer for the first time in 2009 at the age of 49, says the vaccine has been helpful in reducing the likelihood of illness.
She also noted that it would have allowed her to avoid the aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"If I had known about the vaccine as I do now, I would not have to fight it (the cancer), I would be free as a bird, and that's why I encourage mothers to vaccinate their daughters." Davis said.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among Jamaican women aged 30 to 50 years.
As the name suggests, the cancer attacks the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. It is about two inches long and has a tubular shape. The diagnosis of late-stage cervical cancer is not only painful but also costs millions of dollars for treatment.
The cancer, which is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, accounts for about 90 percent of all cervical cancers.
most common STI
A US study found that HPV decreased by more than 50 percent within four years after the vaccine was introduced to women between 14 and 20 years of age.
Support for the use of the vaccine was also obtained from Jamaica Cancer Society Chairman and Jamaica National Group Chief Executive Officer Earl Jarrett, who allowed his daughters and son years ago.
At a Town Hall meeting with the HPV vaccine at Webster Memorial Church in Kingston on October 31, Dr. Melody Ennis, deputy director of the Department of Family Health of the Ministry of Health, said that if nothing is done to solve the problem, then 90 percent of it will get infected with the virus.
She shared that HPV is robust and easily transmitted and is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection (STI).
"After all this information, the Ministry of Health had to do something, and we welcomed the recommendation of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce the vaccine for girls nine who can prevent cervical cancer up to 14 years," she said.
"In Jamaica, we decided to give it to girls who are in grade 7, which means that we give them an average of between 11 and 12 years to girls," Dr. Ennis continues.
… Significant decrease in infections when using vaccines
Last year, in October, the Ministry of Health introduced the non-compulsory Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine program to reach a first 22,000-year-old girl, which provides the best protection against Types 16 and 18 of the virus.
These two types are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
The Deputy Director of the Family Health Unit of the Ministry of Health, dr. Melody Ennis noted "a significant decrease in HPV infection, precancerous lesions and cancerous legions by 68 percent using the vaccine".
"Australia is proud, in March of this year a headline in the Guardian (Newspaper) read that they may be the first country to eradicate cervical cancer … because years ago they began administering the vaccine to young girls before they were exposed to the virus, "she said.
The pediatrician, Dr. med. Abigail Harrison assures that the vaccine contains no live parts of the virus or "any other special preservatives we need to worry about".
"The World Health Organization has reviewed several articles and is sure there have been several clinical trials (too)," she said.
Dr. Harrison pointed out that where there are side effects, as with other medications, "mild symptoms" occur.
"So we tell our girls that they can feel dizzy, they may feel a bit nervous, but when they sit down, they can go away, the symptoms are self-limiting, which means they'll stop by themselves, they do not have to do something about it, "she explained.