Bulacan launches DOH HPV anti cervical cancer vaccination

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CITY OF MALOLOS—Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando supported by all provincial officials and all Bulacan mayors launched on Monday the Department of Health (DOH) Human Papillomavirus (HPV) anti cervical cancer vaccination program that would benefit the province’s 21,000 young girls ages 9-14.

Fernando who received reports of low turn-outs in the vaccination in all the 4 cities and 20 towns in the province, enjoined all the 24 Bulacan mayors to join the provincial government in the official launch to support the DOH program and to ensure the protection of the province’s future teenagers and young professionals.  

“They are our future youth force in the province. We believe and support women’s power. We have to appreciate and yield to this HPV vaccination program of the DOH,” Fernando said.

Grade 4 student Lian Marione Quianzon, 12 from San Jose Elementary School in City of Baliwag was accompanied by her mother, Gemmalyn Tan ,36, for her first dose of cervical cancer prevention Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine on Wednesday at San Jose Rural Health Unit. Photo by Carnela Reyes-Estrope

The governor has also ordered an intensified promotion of HPV vaccination through the Capitol’s radio program including in the regular Damayan Sa Barangay (DSB) medical mission in all the 572 barangays in the province.

The formal launching was held in Shangri La Hotel in Mandaluyong City coinciding with the launch of the intensified river and offshore dredging and cleaning program in the province.

DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa earlier called on parents not to be afraid of the HPV vaccine, the world’s leading cause of cervical cancer intended for young girls ages 9-14 because they are safe and have been proven effective. 

Herbosa said in a media interview in Manila on Wednesday that literacy issues among parents caused the reported low turn outs of vaccination by target HPV beneficiaries. 

“It is a literacy issue, parents should be educated on the advantages of the vaccine. What we are providing under this program is a cancer vaccine. Media can help,” the Secretary explained. 

Grade 4 student Princess Yannah Rae O. Belza, 10, from San Jose Elementary School in City of Baliwag was accompanied by her mother, thirty year old Mary Rose Belza for her first dose of cervical cancer prevention Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine on Wednesday at San Jose Rural Health Unit. Photo by Carnela Reyes-Estrope

“May mga bakuna na well studied tulad ng sa measles, rubella, chicken fox, pertussis na proven na unlike ang mga new vaccines tulad ng dengvaxia, pero lumang vaccine na ang para sa HPV vaccine. Huwag silang matakot, very safe and proven effective ang vaccine,” (There are vaccines that are already well studied like those for measles, rubella, chicken fox, pertussis that were already proven unlike the new vaccines like dengvaxia, but the vaccine for HPV is already an old vaccine. The parents should not be afraid, the vaccine is proven safe and effective), the Secretary further said. 

According to Herbosa, who was guest of honor and speaker in the “Think Pink Awards” search for outstanding stories on breast cancer during the 60th anniversary celebration of Philippine Press Institute (PPI) held at Century Park Hotel, that in Australia, even young boys were given the vaccines due to high cases of HPV. 

PPI and Novartis including iCanServe Foundation partnered in the search story search among PPI member newspapers,  journalists and writers. 

According to Herbosa, he wished that the government could provide the vaccine for all Filipinos in need of the vaccine until herd immunity is reached. 

The DOH included HPV vaccine in the national immunisation programme in April 2015 specifically targeting young girls attending public elementary schools in initially selected towns and cities after the World Health Organization has recommended it to address the global problem of cervical cancer. 

Breast and cervical cancers are the two top leading cancer deaths among Filipino women, health experts said. 

The anti cervical cancer HPV vaccine is administered twice. The second vaccine is given six months after the first jab. 

Dennis Jose Delgado, OB Gyn based in Olongapo City said  all other age sectors can however have their regular HPV vaccines in private clinics.  

Delgado explains however that children ages 9-14 are the best age beneficiary of the HPV vaccines because they are the best immune ages with no sexual experiences. “Cervical cancer is vaccine preventable and this program will leave a significant result if the target beneficiaries will be met. The children ages 9-14 are the best age beneficiary of the HPV vaccines because they are highly unlikely to have sexual contact, they are HPV naïve and have the best immune response,” he said. 

Delgado was guest lecturer in the said forum orientation and said that it is really the parents of the young girls who are key factors in the success of the vaccination. “The vaccines are given for free, there is no problem among the children, they will just take what are given to them. It is really the parents who have preconceptions about the vaccines. We really have to orient the parents more”. 

According to Delgado, the program of the government is very significant because of the increasing number of cases and deaths in the country today due to cervical cancer. The HPV will help ensure a more secure and safe, cervical-cancer free generation in the future, he said.

Low turn-outs

Edwin Tecson, head of the Bulacan Provincial Health Office (PHO) has conducted a forum and orientation on HPV vaccination in February to promote and intensively launch the program because of the low turn-outs due to fear and negative perceptions of mothers and parents of the targeted beneficiaries. 

The vaccination was initially launched in three cities in Bulacan—Meycauayan, San Jose del Monte and in this capital city in 2022, says Tecson. 

Out of the 10,200 grade 4 students in the cities of Malolos, Meycauayan and San Jose del Monte, only 3,391 took the first dose and 1,768 for second dose, based on the data from the PHO. 

Initially for the 2023–2024 school year, out of the same 10,200 target beneficiaries, 2,686 had the first dose and 187 had 2nd dose, also based on PHO record. 

But in the now intensified HPV vaccination still under the 2023-2024 school year, Bulacan targets more than 21,000 young girls or 9-14 years old grade 4 students in all the four cities including City of Baliwag and the 20 towns. 

Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) also promote the HPV vaccination through house to house reminders. 

Under the now intensified program of the DOH,  it includes all the towns and other cities in Bataan, Bulacan and Tarlac in Central Luzon according, DOH Region 3 Director Corazon Flores.

Vaccination in Baliwag

Ma. Teresa Calanoc, rural health midwife in the City of Baliwag told NEWS CORE on Wednesday that many parents are still afraid of vaccines and this drastically led to a small turn-out. 

She said, there is feedback reaching the health offices that women of other age brackets were the ones expressing more interests to avail of the vaccines. She said in the City of Baliwag, at least nearly half of the targets were vaccinated. 

According to Cecilia Custodio, Chief Education Supervisor for School Governance and Operations of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bulacan, there are continuously ongoing orientations being conducted since last month by PHO and respective city and municipal health offices in the schools using DOH materials and power point presentations. 

In Barangay San Jose Rural Health Unit in City of Baliwag, only 2 out of five grade 4 students who have registered, proceeded with the scheduled vaccination on Wednesday, 

Ten year old grade 4-student Princess Yannah Rae O. Belza, 10, in San Jose Elementary School was accompanied by her mother, thirty year old Mary Rose Belza during her first dose. Belza said she and her husband understand the significance of the vaccine against cervical cancer that’s why they had their daughter vaccinated.  

Self-employed and single mother Gemmalyn Tan ,36, from Barangay Sta. Barbara also accompanied her daughter Lian Marione Quianzon, 12 to receive the jab in San Jose Rural Health Unit on the same day. 

She said the HPV is expensive yet being given free by the government that’s why there is no reason to say no. But at first, she said, she had similar reservations. But after she was assured by a nurse in their family of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, she immediately had her daughter scheduled for vaccination. 

“Many of my co-parents as I read their messages in our group chat would not allow their daughters to undergo the vaccination. The effort and money of the government will just be wasted. I think the HPV vaccination is an advantage particularly among single mothers like me,” she told NEWS CORE. 

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