KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 – The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) is focusing on completing the human papillomavirus (HPV) catch-up vaccination for the 2021 cohort of Form One girls who missed out on the vaccine due to disruptions in the global supply.
This decision comes as an estimated 567,151 eligible girls have yet to receive the vaccine as of January 2023. The MOH’s plan is to vaccinate the 2022 and 2023 cohorts based on vaccine supplies this year, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said, as the ministry is prioritising the completion of the 2021 cohort’s vaccination programme.
“The MOH is committed to ensuring that all female students of the 2021, 2022, and 2023 cohorts receive the HPV vaccine before they complete their schooling, but the duration of vaccine administration depends on the amount of allocation received for procurement in 2023.
“Priority will be given to administering the vaccine to female students of the 2021 cohort who are currently in Form 3, and when this entire cohort is completed, the vaccine will be given to the 2022 cohort and subsequently to the 2023 cohort, depending on the amount of vaccine available for procurement in 2023,” Dr Zaliha said in response to Puchong MP Yeo Bee Yin’s inquiry about the government’s plans to restart HPV vaccinations and implement a catch-up programme for girls who missed their HPV shots.
The purchase of HPV vaccines has been allocated a budget of RM120 million for 2023.
The MOH was unable to obtain a supply of HPV vaccines in 2021 due to disruptions in the global supply chain, which affected the implementation of the HPV immunisation programme for Form 1 schoolgirls and 13-year-old teenage girls starting in 2021.
To continue the HPV Vaccination Programme in 2021, the ministry utilised its existing vaccine stock to provide the first dose of the HPV vaccine to Form 1 female students of the 2021 cohort.
Out of the 222,084 female students, only 15.7 per cent or 34,933 students received the first dose, leaving 84.3 per cent or 187,151 students without any HPV vaccine.
In 2022, the global price of HPV vaccines increased six-fold, resulting in the MOH only procuring 100,000 doses of HPV vaccines in December 2022. These vaccines were distributed to the states to be administered to female students of the 2021 cohort who had not yet received the vaccine.
As of January 2023, approximately 567,151 eligible female students had not yet received their HPV vaccines.
The National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) in August last year estimated that over 560,000 girls across the country missed their HPV vaccination, which is highly effective in preventing cervical cancer, in the school-based programme from 2020 to 2022.
The NCSM in its policy brief titled “Restart the HPV vaccination programme” stated most states did not report comprehensively conducting any HPV vaccination programmes from 2020 to 2022, with only Melaka reporting a 100 per cent success rate in 2020.
In 2022, seven out of the 16 states and federal territories surveyed reported zero per cent HPV vaccination for the year – namely, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Kedah, Penang, Perlis, and Johor.
Then-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin admitted that Malaysia “lost a bit of ground” in HPV vaccination for teenage girls from 2020 to 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic due to global HPV vaccine shortage, not school closures.
Khairy said the MOH was committed to a catch-up programme to cover girls who missed their shots of the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer.
Experts have said that any catch-up programme by the MOH to cover girls who missed their shots of the HPV vaccine will need collaboration and partnerships with other ministries.