All Sec 1 girls to get free HPV vaccination from this year
Opt-in vaccination, to be introduced from April, protects against cervical cancer
From April this year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will introduce free human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to all Secondary 1 female students who are Singapore residents.
The opt-in vaccination, which will protect current and future Secondary 1 cohorts against cervical cancer, will be part of the national school-based health programme, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said during her ministry's Committee of Supply debate speech yesterday.
"All other female Singapore citizens and permanent residents from the same age-equivalent cohorts, including those studying in private education institutions, will also be eligible," she added.
The move is in line with the World Health Organisation's recommendations and more than 70 countries - including Australia, Britain and Malaysia - have included the HPV vaccine in their national immunisation programme.
From 2011 to 2015, about 70 women died from cervical cancer every year, and about 200 new cases were diagnosed annually, said Dr Khor.
To fund the programme, about $2.5 million will be set aside each year, with around $10 million set aside for the one-time catch-up programme for all female Singapore residents currently studying in secondary school, which will start this year.
The HPV vaccination consists of two or three doses over a span of six months. Those between nine to 14 require two doses, and those older require three doses. The vaccine protects against the common HPV strains but not all strains.
The cost of the vaccines range from about $300 to $700.
A spokesman for MOH said: "HPV vaccination in females is assessed to be cost-effective for the prevention of cervical cancer in Singapore. This means that the expected benefits from HPV vaccination such as increase in life years, avoidance of cancer outweigh the cost of administering the vaccine in the longer term."
HPV is generally transmitted during sex and common strains primarily lead to cervical cancer, but it can also cause vaginal and vulva cancers.
Dr Khor also announced yesterday that a more accurate HPV screening for cervical cancer will be introduced. Compared with the current pap smear, which needs to be done every three years, the new test will need to be done only every five years.
She 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."
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