Offering best protection for Singapore girls

About 200 women get cervical cancer each year here and 70 die from it, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor on March 6, 2019.
About 200 women get cervical cancer each year here and 70 die from it, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor on March 6, 2019.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

We applaud the Ministry of Health's (MOH) national human papilloma virus (HPV) immunisation programme to bring Singapore in line with more than 90 countries worldwide that have similar programmes to eradicate cervical cancer and reduce the burden of HPV-related diseases on their healthcare systems (Free cervical cancer vaccine for Sec 1 girls, March 7).

This affirms Health Minister Gan Kim Yong's visionary view that "the most effective way to keep healthcare affordable is to stay healthy" (Rate of growth in healthcare spending unsustainable: Gan, March 7), as the majority of HPV-related diseases, especially cervical cancers, can be effectively prevented by systematic vaccination.

The three HPV vaccines currently available are Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil-9 (in chronological order of approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration).

Both Gardasil and Cervarix protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, which together are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

Gardasil-9, an improved version of Gardasil with protection against nine strains of HPVs, became available recently, raising the cervical cancer protection to 90 per cent. Hence, it should be the vaccine of choice if it is within one's means.

Singapore's offer provides universal access to vaccination for all our girls with Cervarix that covers HPV strains 16 and 18.

In the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, parents should be informed of the choice of vaccines available, given that Gardasil-9 provides 90 per cent protection and that the offer of vaccination is an opt-in scheme.

We are glad to learn that MOH is evaluating Gardasil-9.

We hope that Gardasil-9 will eventually prove to be a cost-effective option, so that all our girls will receive the same vaccine that has the best coverage of HPV strains.

About 20 advanced economies like the US, Canada and Switzerland use the best vaccine. Closer to home, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong use the best vaccine too.

Let us also strive to give all Singapore girls, regardless of their financial situations, the best and equal protection, for they are our precious talents and future economic drivers.

Tay Eng Hseon (Dr)

President

Asia-Oceania Organisation for Genital Tract infection & Neoplasia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Offering best protection for S'pore girls'. Print Edition | Subscribe