Recently, the Senior Minister of State for Health announced that all secondary school girls will be able to opt-in to receive a free vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV). These vaccines will be provided as an option under the ministry’s school-based health programme, starting April next year. This move is a national healthcare push in the fight against cervical cancer as HPV is known to be a potential cause of cervical cancer. The vaccines, which are similar to what is being offered at STD clinics in Singapore, will be given to secondary one girls. There will also be a one-time catch-up program for girls of all other secondary levels to receive the vaccination next year. In total, the government is investing 12.5 million dollars in this move to protect the younger generation from cervical cancer. The media has been abuzz about this recent development. If you are still unsure of how this will affect young girls, do not fret! We’ve rounded up three important details that you might want to take note with regards to this new HPV vaccine.
1. This vaccine only prevents some common strands of HPV and not other types of STDs
Some parents have expressed fear that the vaccine is a gentle go-ahead signal for girls to have sex. However, it is far from that. In fact, there are many other types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than just HPV. The vaccines will not protect against STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. Even for HPV, the vaccine is not all-encompassing. HPV has over 100 different subtypes, with some more likely to cause cervical cancer than others. Because the vaccine cannot protect against all strands of HPV, it is still possible for someone who has been vaccinated to contract some strand of HPV. As a result, the vaccine should not be treated as a nod to sexual activity, but rather as an added measure of protection, much like vaccines against chicken pox are.
2. The vaccine will protect against the HPV strands that are likely to cause cervical cancer.
While most HPV strands have a moderate to low chance of causing cervical cancer, the HPV subtypes 16 and 18 are very likely to cause cervical cancer. In fact, about 70% of all cervical cancer cases are caused by these two strands. The vaccine will protect against these two HPV subtypes, thus allowing cancer prevention to start from an early age.
3. The vaccine is actually most effective on girls who are in secondary one.
The vaccine may be used on anybody without HPV, but it is actually the most effective on girls aged 11 to 13 years old. That is the reason why the government is implementing the vaccination scheme for secondary one students, who are about 13 years of age. It is certainly the best move for girls of this age to get vaccinated.
However, it is never too late to get an HPV vaccine, even if you have had sex previously. For most women, it would cost a few hundred dollars and they would need to get vaccinated at an STD clinic in Singapore. This is why the move to have the vaccine in schools has been hailed as groundbreaking by many doctors.
The new HPV vaccine is definitely an important step towards STD prevention across the country. Sadly, it is not for everyone. If you want an HPV vaccine, do contact a nearby HIV clinic in Singapore to get the required jabs.