Cyprus Mail

Free cervical cancer vaccines for girls from September

By Evie Andreou

The health ministry will introduce free vaccines against cervical cancer from September to all 11 and 12-year-old girls in public and private schools, the head of the Cyprus association of cancer patients and friends (PASYKAF) Nicolas Philippou said on Saturday.

The decision was part of PASYKAF’s efforts to vaccinate as many girls as possible to reduce cervical cancer, Philippou told the Sunday Mail.

Cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women worldwide after breast cancer, is also the only cancer for which a vaccine is available. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is one of the world’s deadliest, but most easily preventable forms of cancer for women, responsible for more than 270,000 deaths annually.

Two HPV vaccines, given in three doses over a period of six months, protect against two of the genotypes causing 70 per cent of all cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine, Philippou said, costs at the moment between €110 and €120 per dose, but the health ministry has managed to secure much lower prices from companies that supply the vaccine.

The budget for the free vaccination programme to schools is estimated at around €300,000 and will cover around 4,500 girls, who will be given two doses each.

“For ages under 14, two doses are deemed satisfactory,” Philippou said. He added that they decided that the chosen age was the most appropriate to administer the shot but in the future the vaccine might be deemed suitable for younger children as well.

He said that giving the shot to the selected age group is the beginning and with the expected drop in prices, more children will benefit from it.

He added that at the moment there are no provisions to give the shot for free to older girls, but that PASYKAF’s ultimate goal is to keep pushing to cover older children as well, but also boys, as they too may be affected by the disease, “to break the chain and help diminish cervical cancer”.

Cervical cancer is not hereditary and can be caused by infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), usually transmitted by sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral) from one person to another.

Philippou said that PASYKAF has been for the last three years providing free HPV vaccines through sponsors and that they will try and offer it to as many women as possible.

Until late 2013, only about 15 per cent of girls and women in Cyprus had been vaccinated, because it was expensive, a factor that prevented the state from including the HPV vaccine in its free vaccination programmes.


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