NASSAU, Bahamas, July 2013 – The Bahamas government says it plans to introduce the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine into the public healthcare system for females who are most at risk for cervical cancer.
Health Minister Dr Perry M. Gomez said discussions are taking place with the American pharmaceutical company Merck.
Public Health officials say the introduction of the vaccine into the public healthcare system will be a “major triumph” as the vaccine is currently only available within the private healthcare system and is unattainable to tens of thousands of females who are unable to afford private healthcare.
The HPV vaccine will also add “another vaccine protection for girls and women” as local healthcare officials continue the move towards universal healthcare for all.
“How could we have this discordance in our country in something that is as fundamental as public health, when only the private, well-off girl, have access to a vaccine that can prevent her from getting cancer of the cervix and the one who is unable to afford it, not have the same access? That cannot be right,” Dr Gomez said.
“I am convinced that this will improve the health of women and also decrease the incidence of cancer of the cervix,” Dr Gomez said. “This, we hope, will eventually lead to the elimination of cancer of the cervix.”
Dr Gomez said the opportunity for the introduction of the HPV vaccine came about as a result of his attendance at an international conference at which representatives from the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies and leading healthcare personnel, including many physicians, attended.
“We found out that Merck had immunised the population of females between the ages of 9-27 in a South African country against HPV (the virus that causes cancer of the cervix) with much success and I knew that we have been struggling with the HPV immunisation here in The Bahamas as it is currently only available in the private sector I am told,” Dr Gomez said.
“Through that conference, Merck was offering a substantial discount to countries to immunise their children (and) we are pursuing that,” he said, adding that public health officials will upgrade the country’s vaccine storage facility in advance of storing and then dispensing the vaccine.
“We have to have someplace to keep the vaccines properly because if they are not properly kept, they will be no good when you use them. It is our intention to introduce HPV Vaccine for the entire at-risk population to avoid this discrimination that is currently in place,” Dr Gomez added.
“As the Minister with responsibility for Health, my mandate speaks to ensuring equity in health, providing quality healthcare, promoting wellness and addressing the social determinants of health as communicated in the National Health Services Strategic Plan 2010-2020.
“In order for these goals to be achieved, we would need universal access to health services. We will do our part as public and I think the private sector will respond to Government’s approaches. I think we are on a good wicket,” Dr Gomez added.