Ghana Medical Journal

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Is routine human papillomavirus vaccination an option for Ghana?

AK Edwin


Cervical cancer remains an important public health problem in developing countries where over 80% of the global burden occurs annually but screening has been ineffective. In a polygamous country like Ghana
with a high incidence of cervical cancer but no national screening program, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine presents a unique opportunity to reduce the burden of HPV infection and cervical cancer in Ghanaian
women. The evidence so far indicates that the vaccines are safe and efficacious. Although routine HPV vaccination of girls raises several religious, political, socioeconomic and ethical challenges, the emphasis of
this paper will be on addressing the ethical challenges using the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice as a framework. Parental autonomy can be preserved with judicious exemptions for
those who decline the vaccine on religious and philosophical grounds. This promotes public health without trampling parental authority. Routine HPV vaccination confers several benefits to individuals and society by
preventing HPV infection. Instead of causing harm; it reduces harm by preventing the development of about 70% of cervical cancers and removing the negative physical and psychological impact of a cervical cancer diagnosis. It also has the potential to reduce the disparities
in cervical cancer rates and its cost effectiveness will ensure considerable cost savings in terms of the money spent on diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, the HPV vaccine is an important public health landmark and achievement in women’s health that must be heralded, especially in developing countries where the bulk of the disease and death occur.
AJOL African Journals Online