350,000 women to get free HPV vaccination from early 2012

KUALA LUMPUR - At least 350,000 unmarried women aged 18 and above are expected to benefit from the free HPV immunisation programme to protect women against cervical cancer.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the ministry hoped to start the vaccination programme by the first quarter of next year after completing staff training, promotion for the programme and tender for the vaccine.

No age limit has been set for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, she said, adding that those who qualify would be determined later.

The vaccination, she said, would be made available in 56 Nur Sejahtera clinics run by National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) and six of its mobile clinics nationwide.

"We may also work with non- governmental organisations and religious bodies to promote the nationwide programme and achieve the 350,000 target," she said in an interview.

During the tabling of Budget 2012 on Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the Government would allocate RM50mil (S$20) for the HPV immunisation programme next year.

Private clinics charge at least RM600 for the three injections.

Based on the National Cancer Registry of 2006, the three most frequent cancers among women in Peninsular Malaysia were breast, colorectal and cervix.

Shahrizat said there was an estimated 2,126 cervical cancer sufferers a year with 631 deaths.

"The numbers are expected to increase to 3,502 women, with 1,118 deaths in 2025," she said.

She said the source (HPV) was spread through sexual intercourse. "By having the vaccination, the cancer can be prevented," she added.

Shahrizat said that cervical cancer was the third main cancer among women in Malaysia with 17.9 incidents for every 100,000 women each year.

"We are expecting 350,000 women to be vaccinated and three doses of vaccination be given within a year."

She said the Health Ministry had started giving free vaccines for Form One students last year and "our ministry now wants to extend it to women beyond the age".