The Department of Health (DOH) today urges parents or guardians to bring their 9 to 10 year-old girls to 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,” affirmed DOH Secretary Dr. Janette Loreto-Garin even as she stressed that “there is nothing more tragic than suffering from a disease that is preventable through vaccination.”
DOH and HPV Vaccines for Filipino Women
Similarly, this is the driving force behind the DOH in making HPV vaccine available and accessible to more Filipino women.
“We remind and urge those eligible for HPV vaccination to avail of it in health centers,” Garin said.
During this year’s commemoration of the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in May, the campaign takes on greater meaning and wider reach with the DOH’s implementation of a broader-coverage HPV vaccine in the national immunization program (NIP).
Garin said that 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,” the health chief added.
Cervical Cancer in the Philippines
According to DOH, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death among Filipino women, next only 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,” Garin noted.
This is the timely discussion topic of a multi-sectoral panel for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month held May 25, 2016 at Annabel’s Quezon City.
“Our message ‘Sa Aking Paglaki, Walang HPV’ captures the essence of what we wish to inspire parents of young female children with,” explained Dr. Cecilia Llave, immediate past president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology of the Philippines (SGOP) and of the Philippine Society for Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC). “We want us parents and adults to look beyond the concern of HPV as a sexually related disease, or as a stigma of sexual activity.”
Dr. Llave’s insight comes from years of observing how Filipino culture may not have fully accepted the healthcare solution of HPV vaccination. The administration of the quadrivalent HPV vaccine is indicated for young girls nine to ten years old, in two doses with a six-month interval.
The vaccine is best administered to young adults who have not yet engaged in sex, prior to ever being exposed to HPV, in order for their resistance to HPV infections to be optimum. Thus, HPV vaccine is ideally rolled out in populations with concentrations of the target recipients, such as in schools.
This move has been met with opposition in the past, citing concerns that HPV vaccine may be encouraging early sexual activity.
Preparing For a Better Life
“Sexual activity is almost inevitable,” explained Dr. Llave. “We need to look beyond the thought of our children engaging in sex and becoming sexually mature. It may be an unsettling prospect, but it is the truth and it is reality.”
She added that “As parents looking out for their welfare, we need to understand that arming them with vaccination against HPV is actually what’s best for them, and they can look forward to a life with one less worry against HPV.”