Forum: HPV vaccine: Expand recommended age range to include older women

A healthcare worker administering an injection on a patient.
A healthcare worker administering an injection on a patient.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

The Ministry of Health should expand the recommended age range for vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Singapore to the age of 45. The current recommended age range is nine to 26.

My proposal is based on a recent study that showed the effectiveness of the vaccination on individuals aged 27 to 45.

The HPV vaccine, or HPV immunisation, reduces a woman's risk of getting cervical cancer, one of the most common cancers for women in Singapore.

The vaccine is most effective when given before the first sexual exposure. However, women who are sexually active may still benefit from it as they may not have been exposed to the types of HPV covered by the vaccine.

Nonetheless, the approval to use Medisave to pay for the vaccination (up to $500 per Medisave account per year) is applicable only to women in the nine to 26 age range.

A study by the manufacturer of Gardasil 9 (the HPV vaccine approved by the health authorities here) was done on about 3,200 women aged 27 to 45, with a follow-up of 31/2 years.

The study showed that Gardasil was 88 per cent effective in the prevention of conditions such as genital warts, vulvar and vaginal pre-cancerous lesions, cervical lesions, and cervical cancer related to HPV types covered by the vaccine.

The United States Food and Drug Administration in October last year approved the use of Gardasil 9 to include individuals aged 27 to 45. This approval is based on the results of the above-mentioned study.

I look forward to Singapore expanding the eligibility of Medisave use for HPV vaccination to include individuals aged 27 to 45.

Loh Li Hwee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2019, with the headline 'HPV vaccine: Expand recommended age range to include older women'. Print Edition | Subscribe