BY R.D. Miller
Recently, Jamaica’s Minister of Health has joined a global debate to mandate young girls in their early teen about 22, 338 to be vaccinated for HPV based on local reports.
This vaccine has been quinine arguments over safety and its intended purpose to how different government has created its own policies and implementation standards.
This debate now that has now reached Caribbean region has become one of many searching for the right balance.
Is a Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) a common viral infection of the reproductive tract, with an estimated 630 million people are affected worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Several studies have shown that almost two-third of students became sexually active by age 12.
Most sexuality active people will have HPV at some point in their lives and many will not practice abstinence.
The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) recommends that HPV is more effective when administered before a person first sexual contact and especially for boys 11 or 12, are vaccinated.
Since studies have shown that boys often transmitting the disease to women, it offers protection for sexually transmitted diseases, and help prevent unwanted pregnancy
The CDC noted that there are more than 40 types of HPV’s that are passed on through sexual contact, and ensuring that children are vaccinated to reduce future potential health issues is also a good approach.
HPV across the Caribbean islands seems to be focus on girls, but men are also affected with STI. And these communities must be careful not creating a stigma, and a taboo that it is only a women problem.
Males through age 26 years not before vaccinated should be considered medical experts also recommended.
The risk is much higher for sexually active gay and bisexual men than others who only have one partner or with some women:
HPV is responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers, and 90 percent of genital warts.
Other cancer affecting men and women including; penile, anal, vulva, vaginal and oral.
After several parents’ and communities resisted local government first mandate to vaccinate young girls, it seem officials later have back off to their approach from the backlash.
The Jamaica Gleaner sums it up in these few words: “No Using Girls as Guinea pigs.”
Although infection with the human Papillomavirus has long term medical consequences, avoiding these debates would have been malpractice not to have some concerns on whatever ground they choose, even religious.
However, now that the chatter has diminished, and quietly left the shores like a debris washed out to sea, and surely will return who is monitoring the students who accepted vaccine?
Such as many other hot issues in region, it seems what often does happen whether politics, economic or criminal issues, few days of media blast, and then accountability goes in the dark like a regular power cut and these communities accepts things as normal:
There are many questions that should be asked: Are there analytical systems in place to track these young girls, and if any future problems, who will be liable to whom will be responsible to treat them without future personal financial last obligations?
Additionally, with ongoing disparities for decades in access good medicine, poor diagnosis, and treatment; some believes that their local leaders often gained financially on these issues seen as imported while silently locals are tormented.
To stymie these skeptics, I believe these communities should have better information, and a long-term plan as some medical experts even argued that more research needs to be done.
Although others believe that vaccine can help fight off infections related to the HPV.
And since there is no current cure for HPV, if gone unnoticed, it can later put women at a higher risk of getting cervical cancer one still has to make this a choice.
Vaccinating these students may cut the risk and cost of later medical care as many have argued.
HPV is one of the costliest vaccine on the market today health care professionals have noted.
These resistance in Jamaica often stemmed from decades of skepticism to government policies on many fronts even public safety measures to cut crime.
Such as the earlier Ebola outbreak in Africa, many along these shores and other places believes that only certain regions and group of people are affected and these medicines are just part of a hidden test.
Other argued against it for their religious reasons, moral grounds.
Looking back at the HIV/AIDS epidemic and although medical advance made it a manageable disease, it was through awareness that reduced the stigma in this community.
What seems missing was a comprehensive communication strategy to educate the public and parents in advance before vaccination and even if there are any side effects.
This is a sensitive issue, and I am perhaps the least person to talk about what is best for prevention because I am not a medical doctor:
Does Jamaica or other struggling islands have the resources to test the long-term effect, and to compare women who were given this vaccine.
The CDC also estimated over 20 million new cases of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD’s) occurred each year, and about half occur in young people age 15 to 24 and this is just the U.S. alone
Additionally, the CDC reported that a new case of gonorrhea, syphilis, and Chlamydia have been on the rise.
These bacteria that are silent, can cause serious problems later in life a such as brain, heart, and other organs of the body.
More symptom includes, sore throat, headache and muscle, fatigue fever, and rashes.
Maybe the local government should be seen as a preventative and proactive approach and protecting the next generation from STD is important.
However, the region social stratification, complexities along socio-economic and cultural identifiers that often causes skepticism and sometimes the best cure could simply be awareness, and prevention.
As the healthcare system evolves and despite gains in other areas malaria, polio, HIV, tuberculosis and an increase in various life expectancy and others for decades, many of the Caribbean medical system still has a long way to go, and it is not free as some argued.
Sure, one can be admitted to a public hospital, but most required test and prescribed medications must be paid in advance.
Regardless of these different views on the rights of these youths to control over what medication to accept, the overall medical system still has a long way to go in making sure the people are educated, and especially the marginalized have access to good medical treatment.
Sadly, sometimes inside this concentric Caribbean community one can be marginalized, and isolated that if vaccinated one can easily become of victim of being seen with a disease that is not there.
Finally, listening to each other, the outcome can be good not only if one does not take part, but will be aware that practicing safer sex, and could be more important that a vaccine.
Despite of the side effects, long term advantage or disadvantage, parents should consult with their doctor on what is best for their children, and themselves. This is a story that is beyond one word headlines, tweets, but an opportunity for the region to look at some of its poor health system.