HPV Vaccination: DOH Having Second Thoughts?


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Is the Department of Health having second thoughts about implementing a nationwide HPV vaccination program? During the 2nd HPV Summit, Dr. Eric Tayag said, “We won’t push for HPV vaccination until you organize your Pap smears.” Is the verdict still the same, even after the Reproductive Health Law has already been implemented?

Dr. Eric Tayag at HPV Summit Series 3

In lieu of DOH Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona, Dr. Eric Tayag attended the the 3rd HPV Summit, saying, “In the Philippines, we have to take into consideration the cultural context.”

“For instance, when we advocate condoms, it easily means that for most of us, we are trying to prevent STDs and HIV infection. But there is an equal number of majority who believe that this is actually encouraging promiscuity. The same is true for HPV vaccine especially because the recommendations are for very young populations.”

“Do we have the infrastructure to carry out the program for cervical cancer prevention and control? It seems that cervical cancer screening is opportunistic: For instance, it steps up only during cervical cancer awareness month,” Dr. Tayag said, criticizing the seemingly “seasonal” interest of HPV vaccine advocates.

“The RH Law is silent on the prevention of reproductive tract cancers. This HPV Summit is important to us in our efforts to improve the RH Law.”

- Dr. Eric Tayag

“The HPV screening program also lacks organization. We should do things right,” Dr. Tayag advised. “If the mother-daughter initiative is something we have to do, we should compare it to what we have today so that you can convince [the Department of Health] that we can move forward.”

“But the good news is, the Reproductive Health Law is in effect. We will be discussing promulgations before March 18, which is the deadline we set,” he said. “But the RH Law is silent on the prevention of reproductive tract cancers. This HPV Summit is important to us in our efforts to improve the RH Law.”

Integral Role of Barangays in National HPV Program

In a two-year study involving three different areas in the Philippines (LB, Pagbilao, and Minglanilla), up to 41 percent of women who knew about HPV vaccines learned about them from community health workers, attesting to the fact that health personnel at a barangay level play a major role.

“Midwives were trained and recruited to participate as this is necessary if we want the project to push through as a nationwide program,” Dr. Lu said. “We also have to increase screening efforts if we want HPV vaccination to be implemented successfully.” Good suggestion. After all, that’s why our Department of Health is having second thoughts on launching a nationwide HPV vaccination program.

HPV Vaccination: Why Parents Are Having Second Thoughts, Too

HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease. “Parents are concerned that their daughters are ‘too young’ to be immunized for something sexually transmissible,” Dr. Lu said.

The hesitation of parents to have their daughters immunized may stem from a conservative point of view, one that assumes that having daughters vaccinated for a sexually-transmitted disease is tantamount to admitting that their daughters will be having promiscuous sex in the future.

A woman can still have HPV even she has only had one sexual partner – even if it’s with a loyal husband.

But parents have to accept that at one point or another, their little girls will get married. And even in a monogamous marriage, their daughter might be married to a man who has had sex before – which means their daughter can still have HPV even if his husband remains loyal to her.

DOH Shares The Good News

“Vaccination is very important to the DOH. In our generation, we have introduced the most number of new vaccines,” Dr. Tayag announced. And here’s the best news thus far: The DOH Secretary has already mentioned the introduction of the HPV vaccine in the country!

Dr. Tayag urged the HPV vaccine advocates to work even harder, saying, “Please work with us and give us the information we need so that [Secretary Ona] can make his final decision..

“We are going to give him options and in the end, we are simply going to say yes or no. And we need more info to make a ‘yes’ vote for the HPV vaccine option.” And therein lies the challenge.

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