Free HPV jab for women with blue or orange Chas cards in fight against cervical cancer

University student Farhana Juhar (left) receives a HPV vaccination at the launch of Singapore Cancer Society and Temasek Foundation’s HPV Immunisation Programme on Feb 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Women between the ages of 18 and 26 from lower-income families can now get free human papillomavirus, or better known as HPV, vaccination to fight cervical cancer.

Available until Oct 30, Temasek Foundation will be fully funding any out-of-pocket costs for the vaccination for eligible women who hold a valid blue or orange Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) card.

The vaccinations can be done at Chas general practitioner clinics.

Normally, one dose of HPV vaccination would cost up to $23 for orange or blue Chas cardholders at polyclinics. A full round of the vaccination requires three doses.

Cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer among Singaporean women and the fourth leading causes of deaths in women aged 15 to 44, despite being one of the most preventable cancers.

The Temasek Foundation HPV Immunisation Programme, partnered by Singapore Cancer Society (SCS), was launched on Thursday (Feb 10) at the SCS Cancer Rehabilitation Centre.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam, who attended the event, said that there remains a lack of awareness and uptake in some population groups, such as women from low-income backgrounds.

"This (programme) will greatly increase the accessibility of the HPV vaccine by removing cost barriers associated with the vaccination and will go a long way towards improving vaccine uptake in this group."

Other than women aged between 18 to 26, those who have received their first dose before they turned 27 are also eligible to complete the remaining doses under the programme by the age of 45.

A survey by Temasek Foundation in August last year found that among 406 women, HPV vaccination rate was just 19.2 per cent. Less than 50 per cent of women from low-income backgrounds aged 27 to 45 were aware of cervical cancer prevention with HPV vaccination.

University student Farhana Juhar, 22, attended the event on Thursday to be one of the first to be vaccinated as part of the programme. Ms Farhana, whose parents are a security officer and a housewife, holds a blue Chas card.

She said: "I read an article online about a cervical cancer survivor who was aiming to spread awareness and be an advocate for women to get vaccinated. It motivated me to get it done since its free under this programme."

Temasek Foundation deputy chairman Richard Magnus said the programme aims to reach out to more women, especially from low-income families, to be protected against one of the leading causes of death here.

"No daughter, sister, wife or mother should be put at risk of developing cervical cancer," he added.

The foundation has committed up to $2 million to fund the programme, and expects more than 20,000 women to benefit.

(From left) Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) chief executive Albert Ching, SCS chairman Wee Leong How, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health Rahayu Mahzam and Temasek Foundation Cares chief executive Woon Saet Nyoon, at the programme launch, on Feb 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Ministry of Health's national school-based HPV vaccination programme was rolled out in 2019 to vaccinate female secondary school students, and more than 90 per cent of Secondary One female students have received their HPV vaccinations since then.

SCS chief executive Albert Ching said: "We realised there is a care gap in access to medical services, where a segment of girls may have missed out on the HPV vaccination."

He added that community involvement is crucial in supporting the cancer community and that the society aims to eventually completely eradicate the disease in Singapore.

Ms Rahayu said: "Through such collaborations that seek to educate individuals and facilitate their access to potentially life-saving vaccinations, we can better empower women to take ownership of their own health."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.