Second dose of HPV vaccines offered in Cayman’s schools

Public health nurses are administering the second dose of the HPV vaccines in local high schools this month.

The vaccination immunises against four strains of the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, that can lead to cervical cancer.

The first of three doses was given to girls at John Gray and Clifton Hunter high schools in November. The Public Health Department gave the second dose, two months after the first, to female students ages 11 and 12 in Year 7 at John Gray last week, and will be back at Clifton Hunter on 30 and 31 January.

The third one will be administered six months after the first dose.

School Health Coordinator Joanna Rose Wright said nearly half of the girls eligible to get the vaccinations have availed of the free shots. So far, 97 students in the two schools have been given the first does.

“So far, it has been quite successful. We hope it will continue that way,” Ms Rose Wright said.

Two parents of children who received the first dose at John Gray refused to let their children have the second dose, due to concerns about side effects, she said.

Soreness at the injection site is the most common reported side effect, although some teens feel faint after the vaccine, so doctors recommend they sit and wait for 15 minutes after getting the injection. Other side effects seen at the injection site are swelling, redness and itching. Rare serious side effects have also been reported and include allergic reactions and high fever. There have also been rare reports of death following the vaccine. The Public Health Department advises anyone who experiences any serious side effects to contact a doctor immediately.

The Gardasil HPV vaccine protects against two types of the virus that cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancer and two types that cause about 90 per cent of genital warts. In the United States, the vaccinations are available also to boys, who are vectors for, or who transmit, the virus. The virus can cause genital warts and some cancers in males.

As well as being available at the two public high schools, children between the ages of 11 and 17 from both government and private schools, accompanied by their parents, can get their HPV vaccination at the Public Health Clinic at Cayman Islands Hospital, the West Bay Health Centre, the Bodden Town Health Centre, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Clinic. Children can also be vaccinated by their local general practitioners.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 50 per cent of sexually active men and women will get the HPV virus at some point in their lives. The CDC reports that each year, about 12,000 women in the US get cervical cancer and almost all of these cancers are HPV-associated.