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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Puerto Princesa mayor urges parents to get kids vaxxed vs. cervical cancer

The City of Puerto Princesa through the leadership of Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron is committed to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination coverage in the country by launching the first-ever school-based immunization program in Palawan benefiting 3,000 female public school learners.

Mayor Bayron called on parents to immunize their daughters to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases like HPV and cervical cancer.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron

“To the parents of Puerto Princesa, the most common cancer among women is breast cancer and the second most common is cervical cancer. There is no vaccine against breast cancer but fortunately, there is one against cervical cancer. I encourage all parents and guardians to give your consent for your daughters to be vaccinated against cervical cancer because this is the best way to protect your children from getting the disease and ensure their healthy future,” he said.

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer among women. Every day in the Philippines, a woman dies every 2 hours from cervical cancer. It is also the second most common type of cancer among Filipinas. In fact, almost 8,000 Filipino women are diagnosed with this disease annually.

But the good news is cervical cancer is vaccine-preventable. Administering HPV vaccine to children, especially to young girls, is recommended so that they gain protection even before they are exposed to HPV.

Under the immunization program of the government, HPV vaccine is administered to grade 4 girls aged 9 to 14 years old who are attending public elementary schools. The HPV vaccine is given in two doses, with the second dose administered to the student 6 months after the first dose. Prior to administering the vaccine, parents’ consent is first obtained after a series of engagements with parents and school officials.

A female learner gets her first shot of the HPV vaccine for free.

For the year 2023, the Department of Health (DOH) has procured 1 million doses of HPV vaccines that will help provide cervical cancer protection to 500,000 girls aged 9 to 14.

However, under the national expenditure program for fiscal year 2024, the budget for HPV vaccination efforts has been reduced from said 1 million doses in 2023 to 750,000 doses next year.

The reduced allocation is expected to reach only 375, 000 students for the incoming year. This will cover HPV vaccination access across 15 regions in the archipelago excluding Region 2 and MIMAROPA.

In line with this, Mayor Bayron said: “It is unfortunate to hear that two regions, one of which is MIMAROPA, will not receive HPV vaccine allocations. Maybe the National government has enough reasons why that must be the case.”

Cognizant that thousands of parents rely on public school HPV vaccination programs to protect their children from cervical cancer, Mayor Bayron is open to invest to intensify HPV vaccine coverage among his constituents.

“On our part, the City Government of Puerto Princesa through my leadership is willing to put up the necessary budget given the demand and need for HPV vaccines in order for us to vaccinate our womenfolk and children using our own funds,” he said.

As part of the ongoing budget negotiations, the DOH is calling on lawmakers to increase funding for its HPV vaccination program.

According to the World Health Organization, it is possible to eliminate cervical cancer in the 2030, if HPV vaccination is scaled up to cover 90% of adolescent girls; 70% of women receive HPV-based screening; and 90% of women with pre-cancer and invasive cervical cancer receive adequate treatment.

Gaps and challenges nevertheless persist which if unaddressed, will prevent the Philippines from achieving the global 90-70-90 targets.

This is why Puerto Princesa’s initiative to introduce the HPV vaccination in its health care services in schools is an important step in building a more resilient system that can fortify the community’s protection against vaccine-preventable diseases like cervical cancer.

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