A TOTAL of 78,981 Grade 4 girls from public elementary schools in Western Visayas will avail of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination as part of the free immunization to be provided by the Department of Health (DOH) for the school year 2018-2019.
HPV vaccination, which helps prevent cervical cancer and HPV-related diseases, is given to girls between 9 and 13 years old as part of the school-based health-related services launched by the DOH together with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at the Rodolfo A. Medel Sr. Elementary School in Bacolod City.
The first dose of quadrivalent HPV vaccines, which help protect against four strains of HPV, was administered last July this year while the second dose will be given in February next year.
Dr. Renilyn Reyes, head of DOH-Western Visayas Family Health and Nutrition cluster, said that previously, the HPV immunization was implemented as a community-based program, but the coverage was low because of the challenge to find the girls aged 9 to 10 in their communities.
Through school-based immunization, the DOH expects to reach more adolescents for HPV vaccination.
“We collaborated with the DepEd and decided to add the HPV vaccine to the immunization services in schools. We expect the HPV immunization rate to increase because the Grade 4 pupils can already be immunized together,” Reyes added.
“Recent statistics shows that cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality among Filipino women. Cervical cancer is one of the only two vaccine-preventable cancers,” Reyes said.
She pointed out that the adolescent age of 9 to 13 years old is the most crucial in the prevention of cervical cancer among females since they just need two doses compared to three doses required for older females. This makes it more cost-efficient for the government to provide HPV immunization for girls at this age, Reyes said.
Dr. Rosalie De Ocampo, medical coordinator of the National Immunization Program of Bacolod City Health Office, said parents whose daughters will avail of HPV vaccination can save P12,000 since each dose costs P6,000 in private medical clinics. “(We tell) the parents you get a bonus from our government indirectly. You may not receive cash, but you receive the services which will give protection to your own child,” she added.
Among the mothers whose daughters availed of the first dose of HPV vaccination during the launching program in Bacolod were Amela Etabag and Emily Canincia.
“I want my child to be immunized against HPV now so when she grows up, she may avoid having cervical cancer. We are thankful to the DOH for bringing their services to this school,” said Etabag, whose daughter Patrisya Amihan, 9, is a Grade 4 pupil at Rodolfo A. Medel Sr. Elementary School.
Etabag added that she was convinced to have her daughter immunized for HPV after she learned that their 54-year-old neighbor died of cervical cancer. “Each dose costs P6,000. This is so expensive in private clinics that’s why I call on the parents to have their daughters immunized for them to have a bright future,” she said.
Canincia said her nine-year-old daughter Karlyn Joy, also a Grade 4 pupil at Rodolfo A. Medel Sr. Elementary School, has been willing to be immunized against HPV when she asked her about it. “I am thankful that my daughter is able to avail of free HPV vaccination,” she said.
Councilor Em Ang, who chairs the committee on health of Bacolod City Council, said the collaboration of the three government agencies is a more effective way of delivering the school-based health-related services. “It is easier now to coordinate efforts of the agencies involved, and that is with the full support of the City of Bacolod,” the councilor said, adding that everyone has a stake and a role in the development of school children.
Ang urged parents to let their children avail of free school-based services such as the HPV immunization. Immunization is safe and it is free, it would be expensive to get the vaccines from private clinics, she added.
City Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Mitchell Acuyong said DepEd-Bacolod has recognized it is in their best interest to support the school-based health-related services program. “We recognize that health is critical, a prerequisite if you will, for us to deliver the mandate to educate the children,” he said. “No matter how good the teachers are, how prepared they are, if the health of the children is poor, it will be an uphill battle.”
“I hope our data in the (DepEd) will corroborate the success of the DOH that yes, our children have not dropped out, our children are now better-performing because their health has improved,” Acuyong added.
Ma. Joy Maredith Madayag, director of DILG-Bacolod, said the DILG is for the social protection of every Filipino thus, school children deserve to get health services from the government.
“Our children are fortunate to enjoy this kind of services. I can remember when were young, our parents had to go to private doctors for us to avail of immunization, but this time, it’s for free,” she said.
“If the children’s health is poor, we cannot ensure their good performance in school. Indeed, health is wealth,” Madayag added. (PR)