Health PSC: Restart HPV Vaccination Programme, Cover 560,000 Girls Who Missed Shots

Health PSC chair Dr Kelvin Yii wants the HPV inoculation drive, including a catch-up programme, to be made top priority and to be clearly reflected in Budget 2023.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 – The Dewan Rakyat health, science and innovation special select committee today urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to restart the HPV vaccination programme next year.

The parliamentary select committee (PSC) also told MOH to prioritise a comprehensive catch-up inoculation programme for 13-year-old girls who missed their shots from 2020 to 2022 due to school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) estimates that more than 560,000 girls across the country missed their HPV vaccination, which is highly effective in preventing cervical cancer, in the school-based programme throughout the past three years.

“I welcome the statement by Health Minister YB Khairy Jamaluddin that reaffirmed that he sees cervical cancer as a disease that can be eliminated, at the Ministry of Health town hall session yesterday in Sarawak General Hospital (SGH),” health PSC chairman Dr Kelvin Yii, who is Bandar Kuching MP, said in a statement today, referring to Khairy’s first town hall on the Health White Paper.

“Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia and is mainly caused by HPV. HPV vaccines, by preventing HPV infections, protect individuals against 90 per cent of HPV-related cancers. 

“That is why a comprehensive blueprint to ensure the proper implementation of the vaccination programme is a top priority and it must be clearly reflected in the upcoming Budget 2022/ 2023.”

Dr Yii highlighted NCSM’s estimate that the percentage of districts or zones in Sarawak reporting successful HPV vaccination programmes fell from a low 30 per cent in 2020 to an even lower 12.5 per cent this year.

“This year, not a single district or zone in Kedah, Penang, Perlis, Johor, and the three Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan reported successful HPV inoculation programmes,” the DAP Health spokesman noted.

NCSM estimated that in 2020, about 58 per cent of districts across Malaysia reported not conducting successful HPV vaccination programmes.

This increased to 72.2 per cent in 2021, before rising again to 79.6 per cent of districts this year reporting not having conducted a successful HPV vaccination programme.

“These worrying statistics have to be taken seriously and thus, the urgent need to restart and re-prioritise the vaccination programme on top of implementing a comprehensive catch-up plan to better protect our girls from this deadly virus,” Dr Yii said.

He also said restarting the HPV vaccination drive and a catch-up programme should not be left solely to MOH, but that it should also be on the agenda of state governments and other related federal ministries like the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

“I do hope such plans will be clearly reflected both in the 2022/2023 budget and in the Health White Paper that Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin intends to table in Parliament by year end.”

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