SINGAPORE: Current and future cohorts of Secondary 1 female students can opt in to receive free Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to protect them against cervical cancer, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced during her ministry’s Committee of Supply debate speech on Wednesday (Mar 6).
All other female Singaporeans and permanent residents from the same cohorts, including those studying in private education institutions, will also be eligible, she added.
The initiative will start in April this year.
A one-time catch-up programme will be progressively provided for current cohorts of secondary school female students.
Other countries such as the United Kingdom and Brunei also have similar programmes providing the vaccination in national school-based health programmes, and this is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, Dr Khor said.
About 70 women die of the disease every year, she added. From 2011 to 2015, there were about 200 new cases of cervical cancer annually.
HPV VACCINATION IS “COST-EFFECTIVE”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said it will set aside S$2.5 million each year for the HPV vaccination programme and about S$10 million for the one-time catch-up programme.
HPV vaccination in women was assessed to be cost-effective for the prevention of cervical cancer in Singapore.
“The expected benefits from HPV vaccination such as increase in life-years and avoidance of cancer, including the cost of treatment, outweigh the cost of administering the vaccine in the longer term," a ministry spokesperson said.
In addition, MOH will introduce a more accurate test to screen for cervical cancer which can detect the presence of cancer-causing HPV strains and would require less frequent visits to the doctor, MOH said.
With the new test, women aged 30 years and above need only be screened once every five years, as compared to the current Pap test that needs to be done every three years.
“The better test will cost more, but the Government will provide more subsidies, so the cost to women will be the same in the long run,” Dr Khor said.