The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination project is expected to be re-launched by the Ministry of Public Health in September.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Boyle said the project will have a renewed focus to include partnership with the Ministry of Education and other health agencies.
She added that in partnering with the Ministry of Education, visits will be made to schools to distribute the vaccines among girls, starting from age 11.
The vaccination process will not be compulsory, but parents are advised to ensure their children are vaccinated to prevent the HPV virus.
According to Dr Boyle, the target is to capture girls who are not already sexually active as only then the vaccine will be effective.
She noted that girls who are already sexually active could already be exposed to the virus, and the vaccine will be “a waste of time”. The aim of the vaccine is to kill the virus at the initial stage.
“For girls who are sexually active; if an HPV test is done and there is no virus, only then they will be able to get it. The HPV test is not cheap, but we are hoping to get the equipment this year, so testing can be done,” said Dr Boyle.
At the previous re-launch of the project in October 2016, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud had said the Ministry hopes to start an immunisation process in boys as well, as is done in other countries.
When asked if boys will also be covered in the new re-launch, Dr Boyle responded in the negative, saying “the Ministry is not there as yet”.
The HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer among girls in Guyana arrived here in 2011 and was officially launched by the then Ministry of Health in 2012.
It was relaunched again in 2016 under the now Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with Merck Sharp and Dhome (MSD).
In a 2016 presentation by Dr. Morris Edwards, it was stated that from the period of 2003 to 2012, it was found that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Guyana.
It revealed that Afro-Guyanese women had the highest incidence of cervical cancer, followed by Indo-Guyanese women.
Citing a distinction between the highest incidence and the highest rates of cervical cancer, Dr Edwards said that based on his research, the Chinese in Guyana has the highest rates of cervical cancer, followed by Afro-Guyanese.
He said that Amerindians have the lowest rates of cervical cancer here.
Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) has the highest number and incidence of cancer in Guyana; and there is significant under-reporting of cancer cases and mortality in Guyana.
“The age group most affected by cervical cancer ranges from age 15 to age 39,” he had noted.”