Great news! Women with blue or orange Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cards can get a free HPV shot to protect themselves from cervical cancer.
Blue and orange CHAS cardholders will now be able to get free human papillomavirus (HPV) jabs as the government aims to fight cervical cancer. This is applicable for women from lower-income families between the ages of 18 and 26 years.
Temasek Foundation is organising the free HPV vaccination for women and it will be available until Oct 30, 2022. The Temasek Foundation HPV Immunisation Programme launched the programme on Feb 10 at the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) Cancer Rehabilitation Centre. The foundation has partnered with SCS for the said project.
HPV vaccination: For women with blue or orange CHAS cards
The foundation is funding the jab but it will be limited to women who cannot afford the vaccine on their own. Those wishing to get the vaccine can do so at CHAS general practitioner clinics.
At present, one dose of HPV vaccination would cost an orange or blue CHAS cardholder around $23. A full round of vaccination requires three doses, driving up the cost to $69. However, the foundation is now making the jab more accessible for women, especially considering the fact that cervical cancer is the tenth most common cancer among Singaporean women.
According to Mayo Clinic, cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus connecting to the vagina. The human papillomavirus is the top cause of cervical cancer.
An estimated 2.42 million women aged 15 years and older in Singapore are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Moreover, 309 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 172 die from the disease every year.
It is also the fourth leading cause of death in women between the age of 15 and 44 years. This, despite the fact, it is one of the more easily preventable cancers across the world.
Lack of awareness is one of the more common reasons for the alarming number of cervical cancer cases in women. This is especially true in women from low-income backgrounds.
Available for women waiting to get their second dose
According to Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam, the said project will help in making the HPV vaccine more accessible and will improve vaccine uptake in women belonging to the low-income group.
"This (programme) will greatly increase the accessibility of the HPV vaccine by removing cost barriers associated with the vaccination and will go a long way towards improving vaccine uptake in this group."
Women who have already received their first dose before turning 27 will also be eligible for HPV vaccination dose. They can complete the remaining doses under the programme before the age of 45. This is beyond the eligible women between 18 to 26 years of age.
A survey taken by the Temasek Foundation in August last year found that the HPV vaccination rate was just 19.2 per cent among 406 women. Moreover, less than 50 per cent of women from low-income backgrounds between the ages of 27 and 45 years were even aware of cervical cancer prevention.
Speaking about the programme, Richard Magnus, Deputy Chairman — Temasek Foundation said "No daughter, sister, wife or mother should be put at risk of developing cervical cancer."
Cervical cancer prevention will benefit over 20,000 women
The foundation has made a commitment of up to $2 million to fund the programme. It expects to benefit over 20,000 women in the country.
Previously, the Ministry of Health announced its national school-based HPV vaccination programme in 2019. The programme vaccinated over 90 per cent of Secondary One female students at the time. However, the new programme aims to plug the care gap that may have been created over the years among women.
Speaking about the programme, Albert Ching — Chief Executive SCS, said "We realised there is a care gap in access to medical services, where a segment of girls may have missed out on the HPV vaccination."
He further added that the community will play a crucial role in supporting the cancer community.
"If we want to eradicate the disease from Singapore altogether," he said.
For more information on the vaccine, visit the CHAS website or inquire at a CHAS clinic in your area.
This article was first published in theAsianparent.