The Health department resumed its vaccination drive against cervical cancer by partnering with the local government of Mandaluyong City, where 180 Grade IV female students received the first of two anti-cervical cancer vaccination shots during the HPV Immunization programme launch.

Student beneficiaries will receive the second shot after six months to complete the administration process, the Department of Health said.

Statistics have shown that cervical cancer kills 12 Filipino women per day. The DOH has reported that an estimated 6,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually.

The human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly all cervical cancer cases can be traced to HPV infection.

From communities to schools

The vaccination drive is primarily aimed at school-age girls between 9 and 13 years old, from Grades 4 to 7.

“Shifting the HPV vaccination from a community-based to a school-based approach enables us to provide vaccination services to a ‘catch’ population. We will be able to reach high coverage and dropout rate will be minimized,” said Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial in a press statement.

She added that other key health interventions, particularly against smoking and drug use, will be done simultaneously with the HPV vaccine delivery.

Prior to the actual vaccination, participating Grade 4 students and their parents or guardians were oriented on HPV, its related diseases and the vaccine.

In all, there are 22 public schools in Mandaluyong City set to participate in the drive. The launch was held at the Addition Hills Integrated School on August 7.

Target: 700,000 school children

The nationwide vaccination drive is targeting 700,000 girls from 47 provinces, according to Dr Gerardo Bayugo, Undersecretary of Health for Technical Services.

He added the department spent Php650 million to purchase the vaccines, roughly Php1,300 per beneficiary, which will be provided free-of-charge.
Consent must be given by a parent or a guardian before the child could participate in the programme.

The DOH, and other agencies including the Department of Education, closely coordinated with the Mandaluyong LGU in launching the programme, which was a first in the National Capital Region.

DOH reminded parents that children who received the vaccine may experience mild fever, pain in the injected area, or may feel light-headed as side effects.

Undersecretary Bayugo:
Undersecretary Bayugo: "It's more cost-effective to vaccinate against HPV than to treat cervical cancer."

Other measures vs cervical cancer

Getting cervical cancer is costly, explained Usec. Bayugo, “it could cost anywhere from Php 150,000 to 500,000.” Vaccinating against the disease is more cost-effective than treating it, he explained.

But Bayugo also emphasized that women, apart from vaccination, should also consider other preventive measures.

“Filipino women should also undertake examination, such as pap smear and visual inspection with acetic acid test,” he said.

Health officials underscored the importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing cervical cancer, which includes avoiding smoking, healthy diet, exercise, and regular check-ups.

“HPV vaccination is part of the DOH’s National Immunization Programme. Vaccination is a basic right of children and no child shall be deprived of this right. They should be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, and what better way to this than through vaccination,” Secretary Ubial remarked.

Also attending the event were Dr Ponciano Menguito, DepEd Regional Director for NCR, Dr Maria Corazon Dumlao, DepEd School Health Division, Representatives Alexandria Gonzales, and Dr Ariel Valencia, the Regional Director for DOH-National Capital Region (NCR), and Mandaluyong Mayor Carmelita Abalos. MIMS

Read more:

PH: DOH, DepEd plan return of HPV vaccine in schools
PH: DOH issues warning on cervical cancer
World Immunisation Week 2017: "Vaccines work"