Reigning Miss Cayman Lindsay Japal rolled up her sleeves to receive her first injection of Gardasil, the Human Papilloma Virus vaccination, on Friday.
“The HPV vaccine is a great thing to have because 70 to 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases can be prevented,” Ms Japal said, advocating a proactive approach to tackling this disease.
“As Miss Cayman, I am happy to lend my name, so to speak, to raise awareness for a very good cause,” she said.
The vaccine is administered in three shots. Ms Japal will receive her second injection in two months, and her third four months after that.
The vaccine protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. While types 6 and 11 are responsible for almost 90 per cent of genital warts cases, types 16 and 18 result in approximately 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.
These four strains are also the most commonly associated with HPV induced throat, anal, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancer cases.
Dr. Sook Yin, who administered the vaccination, explained that the vaccine has been slow to gain acceptance in the Cayman Islands, despite the fact that cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death among Caribbean women.
The reluctance may stem from concerns about side effects and the relative newness of the vaccine.
“The HPV vaccine is making its debut but we need to embrace it because every year that passes, the child grows older and her immune system will be weaker,” Dr. Yin said. “As a primary physician, I already see girls who are probably 16 or 18, 20 or 21, who are already infected with the disease process.”
The Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Health Services Authority partnered to introduce a vaccination programme to government high schools last year, an initiative that will continue in the next school year.
Ms Japal said she would encourage young women to make up their own minds about the vaccination.
“First of all, do your research,” she said, urging young women to talk to professionals like Dr. Yin about the vaccine.
“If you feel like me, you’ll think it’s a great step for your future in order to prevent cervical cancer,” she said.
Ms Japal also took part in an online petition launched by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, of which the Cancer Society is a member.
“[The petition] is making [the vaccine] more available to young girls,” she said.
The petition can be found online through the Cancer Society’s website and Facebook page.