From today onwards until 30 October, Temasek Foundation will be proffering free human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, which is a vaccination to combat cervical cancer, to any eligible woman aged between 18 and 26 with a valid blue or orange Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card.
The vaccinations are being conducted at CHAS General Practitioner Clinics, and you can locate the clinic that is nearest and most convenient to you here.
Apart from the women aged 18 to 26, those who have already been administered by first dose before they turned 27, are also eligible to complete their remaining doses under the programme before the age of 45.
Importance of the HPV Vaccine
As a matter of fact, cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer among Singaporeans, and the fourth leading cause of death in women aged between 15 to 44, even though it’s one of the most preventable cancers.
Cervical cancer hardly displays any symptoms during its early stages, and by the time the symptoms start appearing, it would usually have reached the advanced stages.
But this is easily preventable if cervical cancer is caught at its precancerous stage during regular health screenings and its spread is impeded by the presence of vaccines.
There will be more treatment options available then, like removing the abnormal cells from the cervical lining through local ablative or excision procedures, which prevents the pre-cancerous cells from developing into cancerous cells.
Hence, the Temasek Foundation HPV Immunisation Programme was launched on Thursday (Feb 5) at the Singapore Cancer Society’s (SCS) Cancer Rehabilitation Centre, as they were partnered with SCS.
Current Rates of HPV Vaccinations
According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Rahayu Mahzam, he remarks that there is a lack of awareness towards cervical cancer and the uptake of HPV vaccines in some population groups.
Having attended the launch of the event itself, Mr Mahzam believes that this will boost the accessibility of the HPV vaccine by taking away the cost barriers associated with the vaccination, and it will “go a long way in improving vaccine uptake in this group”.
In a survey done by Temasek Foundation last year, it found that the HPV vaccination rate among 406 women was just 19.2%.
Less than 50% of the women from low-income families aged 27 to 45 were even aware that cervical cancer could be prevented with HPV vaccines.
A 22-year-old university student by the name of Farhana Juhar, once read an article about a cervical cancer survivor who was striving to increase awareness of the cancer and advocate for women to get vaccinated.
Being a blue CHAS card holder, it had motivated her to get the HPV vaccine for free under the programme after she heard about its launch.
The Deputy Chairman of Temasek Foundation, Mr Richard Magnus, echoed similar sentiments, stating that this programme is meant to reach to more women, especially those from lower economic backgrounds, and to protect them from one of the leading causes of deaths in Singapore.
Mr Magnus said: “No daughter, sister, wife, or mother should be put at risk of developing cervical cancer.”
The conviction is clearly exhibited in the fact that the foundation has committed up to $2 million to fund the programme, with the expectation that more than 20,000 will stand to benefit from it.
Costs of HPV Vaccines
Typically, a single dose of the HPV vaccination can cost up to $23 for orange or blue CHAS card holders at polyclinics, and a full round of vaccination requires three doses.
In 2019, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced a national school-based HPV vaccination programme to vaccinate female secondary school students, and more than 90% of Secondary One female students have received their first dosage of HPV vaccinations.
It should be noted that HPV vaccines only provide maximum benefits when they are administered before the individual begins engaging in any sexual activities.
Towards this, the SCS Chief Executive Albert Ching said: “We realised that there is a care gap in the access to medical services, where a segment of girls may have missed out on the HPV vaccination.”
He supplements that community involvement and encouragement is vital in supporting the cancer community, and that SCS aims to eventually eradicate the cancer from Singapore through increased awareness and vaccinations.
For non-CHAS card holders, depending on the HPV vaccine you choose to take either:
- Cervarix, which fights against two main strains usually responsible for cervical cancer;
- Gardasil 4, which fights against 4 strains and is most commonly offered in clinics;
- Gardasil 9, the most comprehensive as it fights 9 out of 14 strains that can cause cervical cancer.
The full course of vaccination can cost anywhere from $285 to $744, based on which clinic you choose and which vaccine you take.
Note that these prices exclude GST, consultation costs, and procedure fees.
$500 of your Medisave can be used to pay for HPV vaccines, but only for Cervarix and Gardasil 4.
Gardasil 9 has not been covered by Medisave yet, according to the MOH website, because it is not cost-effective compared to the alternative HPV vaccines.
Until a reasonable price has been obtained from the manufacturers, it will not be included under the national immunisation schedules.
Likewise, many health insurance companies offer coverage for the costs of HPV vaccines, but the policies vary from company to company, and it would be best if you checked with your insurance company on what they offer.
In conclusion, please get vaccinated if you can, and that includes boys too!
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and men can contract it too!
Just because the chances are lower, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Prevention is always better than cure!
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