From April onwards, all 13-year-old girls in national schools, as well as madrasahs, will be able to get vaccinated for free to protect them against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection.
As a one time catch-up, all girls currently studying in Secondary school and private education institutes will be offered the vaccination, as long as they are Singapore residents.
It is an opt-in scheme and hence, parents will have to give their consent. The Senior Minister of State for Health, Amy Khor, has stated that this will be made available as part of the national school-based vaccination programme.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has put aside S$10 million for this year and will begin by setting aside S$2.5 million on a yearly basis for the vaccination programme.
According to The Straits Times, Dr Khor said that the initiative comes as an area of focus of the Women’s Health Committee, which she chairs, is cervical cancer. She also noted that in each year, there are about 200 women getting the cancer and 70 die from it. After that, she added that,
This cancer, which is caused by infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), can be prevented with vaccination and screening.
Due to that, Singapore has chosen the oldest of three HPV vaccines on the market, Cervarix, to protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.
For women aged 30 and above
Dr Khor has said that the MOH will be introducing a more accurate HPV screening test for cervical cancer, which is needed to be done every five years. The current recommended protocol involves the Pap smear test to be done every three years. She also said,
The better test will cost more, but the Government will provide more subsidies, so the cost to women will be the same in the long run
This is one part of the MOH’s move to increase disease prevention as well as to reduce the strain on healthcare services later.
What you should know about HPV & the vaccine
HPV is usually harmless and would go away by itself but there are some types that can lead to cancer or genital warts. The risk of HPV infection is higher when someone has more sexual partners.
Under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, HPV vaccines are approved for girls and women aged between 9 and 26. The vaccine has been proven to be more effective before a woman becomes sexually active. But sexually active adults can still benefit from it nonetheless.
While prices are different for every clinic, it would cost at least S$300 to get the required shots of the vaccine. In the year 2017, the MOH included the vaccination on its list of recommended immunisation jabs for those aged 18 and above. Now, Singaporeans can use up to S$500 from their Medisave account to pay for it every year.
The Singaporean Cancer Society announced a three-year plan last year in order to tackle cervical cancer by encouraging girls and young women to get themselves vaccinated.
The vaccine is helpful in preventing certain types of HPV infection that could lead to cervical cancer, which is one of the most common cancer here and is also considered one of the most preventable cancers.
Other countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, Australia, the UK and more have also included the HPV vaccines in their school-based vaccination programmes.
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