Thousands set to benefit from Hong Kong’s free HPV vaccination programme

Government set to roll out three-year scheme to protect more than 30,000 young girls from cervical cancer across the city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:38pm

More than 30,000 young girls from low-income families will be offered free cervical cancer vaccines under a HK$99 million scheme funded by the government’s Community Care Fund, it was announced yesterday.

The three-year programme will begin from October 3 for girls aged between nine and 18, who either receive comprehensive social security assurance or those who are receiving a full grant under the school textbook assistance scheme.

The free cervical cancer vaccination pilot scheme was first introduced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his policy address last January. It will benefit 31,000 girls at a cost of HK$98.75 million.

The move came as the Cancer Registry ranked the cancer as the seventh most common cancer among local women in 2013 and after an expert panel advised the government to look at the possibility of such plan in the same year.

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Such schemes are already in place in about 50 countries, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation.

The 9-valent vaccine that will be offered is the newest human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine developed to cover HPV genotypes, which account for 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

Executive director of the Family Planning Association Susan Fan Yun-sun expects the free scheme to substantially raise the current 10 per cent vaccination rate among all local women, which is in contrast to 70 per cent in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

“We hope the scheme will encourage girls to use proactive actions to safeguard their health,” Fan said.

The three dosage vaccine, which costs more than HK$3,000 in private clinics, will be offered upon proof of eligibility and booking at any one of the three of the association’s centres in Wan Chai, Kwai Fong and Mong Kok.

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Fan said the association was expecting a high number of registrations but was confident centres could meet demand.

Researcher has shown the vaccine is more effective if girls receive it between the ages of nine and 14, she said. Eligible girls who are 18 could be given priority in the queue.

“The protection is also greater when the vaccine is received before the start of sexual activity,” Fan added.

The three injections are required to be completed within half a year from the first jab.

In response to the public’s concern over the safety of the vaccines triggered by a controversy surrounding the possible adverse effects of HPV vaccines in Japan, Fan assured Hongkongers that all local vaccines have gone through safety checks by the drug office under the Department of Health.