Friday, 8 March 2019

Free cervical cancer vaccine for Secondary 1 female students from April 2019

Offer will be progressively extended to all girls currently studying in secondary schools
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2019

All Secondary 1 girls in national schools, including madrasahs, will be offered free vaccination from next month to protect them against cervical cancer.

About 200 women get the cancer each year and 70 die from it, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday.

She added: "This cancer, which is caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), can be prevented with vaccination and screening."

The vaccine protects women against common HPV strains, which primarily cause cervical cancer, but can also cause vulva, vaginal and anal cancers.

As a one-time catch-up, the offer will be progressively extended to all girls currently studying in secondary schools. Those of similar age studying in private education institutes will also be offered free vaccination, if they are Singapore residents.

This is an opt-in scheme.

The Government has put aside $10 million for this year, and $2.5 million annually from next year.

Singapore has picked the second oldest of three HPV vaccines on the market, Cervarix, which protects against HPV strains 16 and 18, which account for 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) told The Straits Times that Cervarix was selected based on factors such as efficacy, price and stock availability.

Its spokesman added: "MOH is evaluating Gardasil 9 to compare it to the other two HPV vaccines. If found to be cost-effective in the local setting compared to Cervarix or Gardasil, MOH will consider offering Gardasil 9."

* Boosting HPV vaccination coverage

We thank Dr Tay Eng Hseon for his support for the school-based human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme (Offering best protection for S'pore girls, March 13).

The move to offer free vaccination to all Secondary 1 girls in national schools, including madrasahs, is part of the Ministry of Health's (MOH) efforts to increase the coverage of this vaccine which prevents cervical cancer.

While all three HPV vaccines that are available in Singapore – Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9 – were considered for the school-based programme, Cervarix was selected following an assessment which included considerations of efficacy, price and stock availability.

Cervarix and the vaccine Gardasil are recommended under the national immunisation schedules, and have been assessed by MOH to be safe and effective in preventing cervical cancer.

The current evidence indicates that both these vaccines provide comparable protection against two of the most common cervical cancer-causing HPV types - HPV types 16 and 18.

They account for 70 per cent of all cervical cancer cases.

While Gardasil extends protection against HPV types 6 and 11, these HPV types generally do not cause cervical cancer.

A third vaccine, Gardasil 9, is relatively new in Singapore and is not included in the national immunisation schedules.

But MOH may offer Gardasil 9 in the school programme in future if it is cost-effective.

The Health Promotion Board will provide parents with educational material on HPV vaccination, the type of vaccines available in Singapore and what will be administered to the girls in schools to encourage parents to opt in for the programme.

Lim Siok Peng (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications Division
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 21 Mar 2019

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