Guangdong girls given free HPV vaccine shots
A number of cities in Guangdong province recently began administering domestically made 2-valent human papillomavirus vaccines for free to female first-year junior high school students below 14 years old.
The move, aimed at preventing cervical cancer, is in response to the global strategy launched by the World Health Organization in 2020 to ensure that by 2030, 90 percent of girls are fully vaccinated against HPV by the time they turn 15.
Some other places in China are also providing 2-valent HPV vaccines for free to eligible girls.
The Guangdong program is expected to benefit more than 750,000 girls each year, according to the provincial health commission.
The 2-valent vaccine provides protection against two high-risk strains, HPV16 and HPV18, which are blamed for causing 84.5 percent of cervical cancer cases in the country.
The provincial government issued a work plan in November, covering three years from this year and including efforts to promote the awareness of cervical cancer prevention. It allocated 600 million yuan ($86.1 million) for the purpose.
The first doses will be administered between September and November and the second doses in March and April.
Girls are inoculated on a voluntary basis and are accompanied by their custodians when they are vaccinated.
"We held a series of events to promote the benefits of the HPV vaccine among students and their parents. We completed the registration of students before Sept 3," said Cai Minghua, a teacher with Jida Middle School in Jieyang, Guangdong.
The vaccination of 396 students at the school began on Wednesday.
"It protects children's health. The earlier, the better. We registered for it early on," said Chen, a mother of a student at the school.
To date, 2-valent, 4-valent and 9-valent HPV vaccines have been approved for use in the country, with the lower age limit for inoculation set at nine for all three types. The supply of the 4-valent and 9-valent HPV vaccines falls short of demand at present.
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is for a female to get fully vaccinated against HPV before her first sexual encounter. The WHO suggests that the prime age for the vaccination against HPV be set between 9 and 14, according to Zheng Huizhen, chief expert with the Guangdong Preventative Medicine Association.
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