KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 – Khairy Jamaluddin today admitted that Malaysia “lost a bit of ground” in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for teenage girls from 2020 to 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The health minister also said the Ministry of Health (MOH) is committing to a catch-up programme to cover girls who missed their shots of the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer.
“We already have plans to ensure we procure enough vaccines for the end of this year and for next year to ensure that we can catch up,” Khairy told reporters after officiating the IGBA-MOPI Conference 2022 here today.
The health minister, however, attributed the decline in HPV vaccinations, particularly in 2021, to global HPV vaccine shortage instead of the Covid-19 pandemic, as claimed by the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) in its policy brief titled “Restart the HPV vaccination programme” released on August 29.
Khairy said in 2020, despite school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, 209,279 of Form One girls (98.2 per cent) received at least one dose of HPV vaccine, including 206,042 (96.7 per cent) who completed two doses of their vaccination within the same year.
“This was achieved through shifting school-based vaccination to clinic-based vaccination during the affected period,” Khairy said.
However, inoculation rates under the national HPV vaccination programme that targets 13-year-old girls plummeted last year.
In 2021, only 34,944 of Form One girls (12.7 per cent) received their first dose, including 31,708 (6.4 per cent) who received two doses of HPV vaccine.
“The low coverage in 2021 was related to global HPV vaccine shortage, rather than the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic as claimed by NCSM,” Khairy said.
He did not provide HPV inoculation rates for this year.
The NCSM estimated over 560,000 teenage girls missed their HPV jabs from 2020 to 2022 due to school closures during the pandemic and diversion of funding to Covid programmes.
NCSM and other civil society groups and advocates had urged the government to restart the nationwide HPV vaccination programme for 13-year-old girls in secondary schools in Malaysia next year.
They also called for the implementation of a catch-up vaccination programme in 2023 for girls who missed their shots from 2020 to 2022.
The Dewan Rakyat health, science and innovation special select committee yesterday urged MOH to restart the HPV vaccination programme next year, including budgeting for a catch-up drive for girls who missed their shots.