MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) urged parents or guardians on Wednesday to bring their nine- to 10- year-old girls to the nearest health centers this summer for free vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) to avoid acquiring cervical-related diseases in the future.
“Vaccination is a modern healthcare solution that brings benefits, so we should all take advantage of it as much as possible,” DOH Secretary Dr. Janette L. Garin stressed in a joint press briefing with Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) at Annabel’s Restaurant in Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Speaking on the topic “Sa Aking Paglaki, Walang HPV,” Secretary Garin said that there is nothing more tragic than suffering from a disease that is preventable through vaccination as the country celebrates Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this May.
“Similarly, this is the driving force behind the DOH in making HPV vaccine available and accessible to more Filipino women,” she added.
“We remind and urge those eligible for HPV vaccination to avail of it in their nearest health centers,” she said.
The HPV vaccination was originally intended to be included in the school-based immunization targeting nine to 10 years old girls studying in public schools in the 20 poorest provinces in the country last year.
However, the plan was changed due to some misconceptions and opposition in the past, citing concerns that HPV vaccine might be encouraging early sexual activity which the DOH had immediately denied.
As a result, the DOH decided to make it available to rural health units in the 20 poorest provinces where it was originally intended.
The 20 poorest provinces were determined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The DOH Chief said that they are currently expanding the vaccination program to another 27 provinces to cover a total of 47 provinces nationwide.
This expansion indicates DOH’s implementation of a broader coverage of HPV vaccine in the National Immunization Program (NIP).
Secretary Garin said the DOH has introduced the quadrivalent HPV vaccine in its NIP to protect women not only from cervical cancer, but from other diseases such as genital warts and vaginal and anal cancers as well.
“This spells an even better future for young women to be free from the burden of HPV-related diseases,” she added.
According to DOH data, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of deaths among Filipino women. It ranks next to breast cancer.
It is estimated that 12 women die from the disease every day in the Philippines.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection from the human papilloma virus or HPV.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that cervical cancer control programs are multi-pronged, aimed at preventing disease before it happens, or picking it up in its pre-cancerous stages or in the early stage of the cancerous process, and providing appropriate treatment strategies.
“The good news is the DOH has embarked on cervical cancer screening programs, as well as HPV vaccination as cervical cancer can be prevented through the simple act of immunization,” Secretary said.