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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Raise DOH budget for HPV vaccination – Cancer Coalition of the PH

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The Cancer Coalition of the Philippines (CCPh) has urgently appealed to lawmakers to reject budgets cuts that would hamstring the Department of Health’s (DOH) cervical cancer prevention program and compromise the health of millions of women and girls in the country.

Instead, the CCPh urges lawmakers to increase the DOH’s budget for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and protect more Filipinas from cervical cancer.

“Increase the budget allocated for HPV vaccination. Eliminating cervical cancer is worth the budget increase. Let us not compromise our capacity as a nation to reduce avoidable deaths from this preventable cancer. We should not put at risk the lives of these unserved, vulnerable young girls. We should ACT NOW, rather than regret the losses from our inaction later,” said Carmen Auste, Vice President of CCPh.

The DOH currently provides free anti-cervical cancer (also known as HPV) vaccines to girls aged 9 to 14, giving them the necessary protection against the that causes nearly all types of cervical cancer.

In 2024, the DOH aims to cover and protect at least 3 out of 7 unvaccinated girls within the ideal age bracket—however, due to a reduced budget under the current version of the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP), only 1 out of 7 Filipinas who still need to be vaccinated will be able to receive at least a single dose of the vaccine.

Notably, the present budget allocation covers only 750,000 doses (2024), which is significantly lower compared to the previous 1 million doses (2023) and 1.4 million doses (2022).

The DOH is requesting that lawmakers provide at least an additional PhP400 million for the HPV immunization program, particularly as the current HPV vaccine allocation does not cover Region II (Cagayan Valley) and MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), hampering the goal of nationwide coverage.

Doses vs. deaths

The HPV Information Centre noted that the Philippines has a population of 39.6 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer, which is the second most prevalent cancer and the second leading cause of death among Filipinas.

Eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem means providing DOH with sufficient budget support for its immunization program. Together with partner patient leaders, civil society organizations, medical practitioners and health workers, CCPh isasking lawmakers to prioritize women’s health and well-being by increasing the budget allocation for HPV vaccination against cervical cancer.

“CCPh is speaking out on behalf of the nearly 8,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the more than 4,000 women on average who lose their lives, annually, to this preventable disease,” said CCPh in its statement.

“Not all cancers can be prevented, but cervical cancer can. HPV vaccination is proven to be a safe and effective way to prevent and control cervical cancer.”

DOH is working in line the World Health Organization’s ”90-70-90” ambition to eliminate cancer worldwide by 2030: 90% of 9- to 14-year-old girls vaccinated against HPV, 70% of women screened using a high-quality cervical cancer test, and 90% of diagnosed women receiving timely and appropriate care.

However, 2022 WHO data reveals that the Philippines has only reached 33% of girls (before the age of 15), with at least 1 dose of HPV vaccine. This is a very long way from the 90% vaccination target committed by 2030.

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