Consider HPV vaccination for all school children, govt told

Posted on June 9, 2012, Saturday

by Lee Ya Yun, reporters@theborneopost.com.

Prof Dr Woo Yin Ling

Prof Margaret Stanley

KUCHING: The government should consider giving human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to all school children as the most effective way to prevent HPV-associated diseases and cancers, said Prof Dr Woo Yin Ling yesterday.

Studies showed the vaccination could help prevent up to 70 per cent of HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer, genital warts, vaginal and vulvar cancers, said the professor of obstetrics and gynaecology from University Malaya, who is also consultant gynaecological oncologist with University Malaya Medical Centre.

The Malaysia government introduced the school-based vaccination programme in 2010, but it was only limited to 13-year-old girls, said Dr Woo.

Australia, she said, had showed a 90 per cent drop in genital warts, transmitter of HPV, in 2011 after the country introduced the vaccination catch up programme in schools for all 12 and 13-year-old girls in 2007.

“Therefore, we highly recommend the vaccination programme be extended to school boys as well,” she told reporters when met at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here. Dr Woo was one of the speakers at the 10th RCOG International Scientific Congress at BCCK.

She pointed out that if 70 per cent of the population of developing countries were given the vaccination, it would see a 50 per cent drop in HPV-related diseases.

She added that 5 per cent of cancers in the world were associated with HPV, and 12 per cent of female cancers due to HPV.

“One in every six cancers in the world is due to infectious disease, of which HPV-related diseases top the list. Infectious diseases are preventable, which means one in six cancers in the world is preventable.

“As such, we should be doing something to stop it and vaccination is the way,” she said, adding that if 70 per cent of women in developing countries were given the vaccination, it could prevent 4 million deaths in the next 10 years.

Pap smears should be carried out every three years for women aged 21 to 55 even though they had the vaccination, stressed Dr Woo.

“Take responsibility for your own health. Don’t feel shy or shame to look for a doctor.”

The HPV vaccination programme was particularly useful in countries without organised cervical cancer screening programme like Malaysia, opined Prof Margaret Anne Stanley, one of the speakers at the congress.

Describing cervical cancer as a big problem in Malaysia, the research director of Department of Pathology at Cambridge University attributed the high death rate from the cancer to poor screening.

She pointed out most Malaysian women diagnosed with cervical cancer were at the last stage, hence had an increased death rate.

“In United Kingdom (UK), every woman will get a letter inviting them to have a pap smear done when they reach 25 years old. It is almost 100 per cent cure if a woman is detected with signs of pre-cancer. If the woman decides to ignore it, there is a 40 per cent chance that the pre-cancer will turn into cancer.”

Besides preventing cervical cancer, the HPV vaccination was effective in preventing genital warts, Stanley disclosed.

About 10 per cent of the population would get genital warts, a highly contagious disease, she revealed. UK spent 30 million British pounds annually to treat genital warts.

“If you have a lot of sex partners, you are increasing your risk. Therefore, it is good to have the vaccination.”

Stanley stressed that 18 million doses of HPV vaccines had been used to date and there was no indication of serious side-effects other than a sore arm or fever.

“What is the side-effect of HPV vaccination? Sore arm. And what is the side-effect of cervical cancer? Death!”

She advised parents to ensure their children, particularly daughters, to have the vaccination.

“For mothers, if you can afford, get yourself vaccinated. If I’m the mother, I would like my boys to get the vaccination too.”

Women should also encourage their partners to have the vaccination.

Both Dr Woo and Stanley presented their insights on HPV at a lunch symposium sponsored by MSD.

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