Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) and Temasek Foundation are launching the Temasek Foundation HPV Immunisation Programme to provide HPV vaccination at no cost to eligible females from low income backgrounds, namely, unvaccinated females aged 18 to 26, and females aged 27 to 45 who have received the first dose. This new initiative helps eligible women cover the out-of-pocket expenses after government subsidies, for three doses of the HPV vaccination. Close to 31,000 women are expected to benefit from this programme.
Temasek Foundation has committed up to $2 million to fully fund the co-payment required for the HPV vaccination for those who meet the following criteria:
1) Singapore Citizens only;
2) a) Females aged 18-26 years who have not been vaccinated; OR
b) Females aged 27-45 years, if they had already received their first HPV vaccination dose by 26 years old; and
3) Valid Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) Orange or Blue cardholders
Administered by SCS, the programme offers eligible females three doses of the Cervarix HPV vaccination at no charge if they have not been vaccinated before. Cervarix will be given to females aged 27 to 45 years who had already received their first dose. Eligible women may book their HPV vaccination appointments at their nearest participating CHAS General Practitioner clinics .
Despite it being one of the most preventable cancers, cervical cancer is in the top ten most common cancers1 among Singaporean women today, and the fourth leading cause of death in women aged 15 to 44 years old2. An overwhelming 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to HPV genital infection3. The Cervarix HPV vaccination has been proven to provide protection against HPV types 16 and 18, which account for 70% of all cervical cancers. It has been shown to be both clinically- and cost-effective in the local setting for females4.
A two-pronged approach with cervical cancer screening and upstream HPV vaccination is key to preventing cervical cancer. While cervical cancer screening remains pivotal in the prevention of this disease, HPV vaccination is now recognised as key in cervical cancer prevention, especially in young females who have yet to have their first sexual exposure.
Yet, HPV vaccination rate remains low. Temasek Foundation commissioned a dipstick survey of 406 females in August 2021 to assess the public’s awareness and attitude towards HPV, cervical cancer and HPV vaccination. Among the respondents, HPV vaccination rate was low at 19.2%, and lower among the low-income. Fewer than 50% of low income women aged 27 to 45 years were aware of cervical cancer prevention with HPV vaccination. HPV vaccination at no cost and convenient vaccination locations were cited as top factors for females in the low-income group to take up the HPV vaccination.
Recognising that a holistic programme encompassing education, screening and vaccination will help Singapore move towards eradicating cervical cancer in the long term, the Temasek Foundation HPV Immunisation Programme includes a public education and outreach campaign on cervical cancer prevention and HPV vaccination to increase awareness and thus, the take-up rate for vaccination, among women aged 18 to 45 years.
Mr Richard Magnus, Deputy Chairman of Temasek Foundation, said: “HPV vaccination can protect women from developing cervical cancer and save lives. No daughter, sister, wife or mother should be put at risk of developing cervical cancer. Don’t miss out on vaccination because of cost. Together with the Singapore Cancer Society, Temasek Foundation would like to help reach out to more women, especially those unvaccinated and from lower-income families, so that they can also be protected from one of the leading causes of deaths in Singapore.”
SCS also offers cervical cancer screening tests (Pap test / HPV test) at no cost in the fight against cervical cancer. SCS has been intensifying its cancer prevention efforts and as part of long-term plans to eradicate cervical cancer and reduce cancer incidence, the HPV Education and Immunisation Programme (HEIP) for girls aged 9-13 years old was launched in October 2018.
“SCS is dedicated to minimise cancer and maximise lives through various effective and impactful programmes for the prevention and control of cancer. We place great emphasis on intensifying our cancer prevention efforts to reduce cancer incidence. 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. While we do our utmost to reduce cancer incidence through our various upstream cancer prevention programmes, and public education awareness and outreach activities, community involvement is crucial in supporting the cancer community. In this partnership with Temasek Foundation, we hope to empower and protect against a whole generation of girls against cervical cancer. We aim to reduce the cancer incidence and eventually completely eradicate this disease in Singapore”, said Mr Albert Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Cancer Society.
1 Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Report 2018
2 Bruni L, Albero G, Serrano B, Mena M, Collado JJ, Gómez D, Muñoz J, Bosch FX, de Sanjosé S. ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre). Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in Singapore. Summary Report 22 October 2021.
3 World Health Organization. (n.d.). Cervical cancer. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/cervical-cancer .
4 Health Hub Singapore https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/701/faqs-on-hpv-and-hpv-immunisation