KUCHING: The government through the Ministry of Health (MoH) must restart the nationwide human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme for 13-year-old girls in secondary schools next year.
In making this call, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii stated that the government must also prioritise implementing a comprehensive catch-up vaccination programme in 2023 for girls who missed their shots from 2020 to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I welcome the statement by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin that reaffirmed he sees cervical cancer as a disease that can be eliminated at the recent MoH townhall session in Sarawak General Hospital (SGH).
“Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia and it is mainly caused by HPV. HPV vaccines by preventing HPV infections can protect individuals against 90 per cent of HPV related cancers,” he said in a statement today.
He pointed out that a comprehensive blueprint to ensure the proper implementation of the vaccination programme is a top priority which must be clearly reflected in the upcoming Budget 2023.
In pointing this out, he said the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) recently released worrying statistics where over half a million teenage girls in Malaysian secondary schools are estimated to have missed their HPV jabs due to school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic and diversion of funding to Covid-19 programmes.
Based on the HPV vaccination rate in previous years, at least 176,944 and 186,593 13-year-old girls would have missed their HPV shots in the disruption of the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
A further 200,000 girls in this cohort are estimated to have missed out their vaccinations this year, leading to at least 560,000 teenagers in Malaysian secondary schools missing out on their HPV vaccination that prevents cervical cancer.
“Based on the NCSM report, there was a reduction of inoculations across almost all states from 2020 to 2022. In Sarawak, we saw a reduction of successful inoculations from 30 per cent in 2020 to 12.5 per cent in 2022.
“This worrying statistics has to be taken seriously, thus the urgent need to restart and re-prioritise the vaccination programme on top of implementing a comprehensive catch-up plan to protect girls from this deadly virus,” he explained.
He said such an issue should not only be in the hands of the federal government or MoH, but on the agenda of state governments and other ministries such as the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development whether on a federal or state level.
“I do hope such plans will be clearly reflected in both the 2023 Budget and in the Health White Paper that Khairy intends to table in Parliament by year end,” he added.