MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of female, Grade IV students from the 20 poorest provinces of the Philippines can avail themselves of free vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a virus that causes cervical cancer.
This is part of the school-based immunization program of the Department of Health (DOH) that will happen in August.
“It will not be implemented in a nationwide basis because our funds are limited as of the moment, but this will cover the 20 poorest provinces,” Health Secretary Janette Garin said during the “Usapang Bakuna” (Vaccine Talk) forum led by pharmaceutical company MSD on Tuesday, April 21.
Citing data from the National Economic and Development Authority, Garin said the 20 poorest provinces are:
Lanao del Sur
Zamboanga del Sur
The department chose the country’s poorest provinces for the free HPV immunization program because cervical cancer “has created a huge reduction in terms of upliftment from poverty,” Garin said.
Patients with cervical cancer are usually in their mid-40s or early 50s, and the disease affects their productivity as adults. (QUIZ: What’s your cervical cancer risk profile?)
Parents’ consent needed
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women. Every year, the Philippines reports at least 6,000 cervical cancer cases and 12 deaths.
To prevent further infections and deaths, DOH will allot P300 million ($6.78 million) to immunize an initial number of 300,000 female students in the grade 4 level.
Following the recommendation of the World Health Organization, DOH will administer two doses of the HPV vaccine within 6 months. But before students can receive the vaccine, they need to get consent from their parents.
“Why focus on Grade IV? Para isa lang. Mahirap kasi pag nagpaplano ka na age range. Para nai-inculcate sa minds ng ating mga nanay at tatay,” the health secretary explained.
(Why focus on Grade IV? So you only focus on one age group. It’s hard to plan for an age range. This is so you can inculcate the [importance of] vaccination in the minds of our mothers and fathers.)
The HPV vaccine is recommended before young girls become sexually active. While the program will be rolled out first to students in the 20 provinces, DOH intends to increase the coverage in the coming years.
The school-based immunization program that will begin in August will also include vaccines against tetanus for students in grades 1 and 7. (READ: DOH: Students to get tetanus shots for ‘lifetime immunity’)
PhilHealth, for its part, has included cervical cancer screening in its Tamang Serbisyo sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya or Tsekap package. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P44.22