The vaccination is a huge success in the country
Health: A group of 13 individuals from the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) are in the country for a weeklong discussion on extending the cervical cancer vaccination programme for another five years.
Led by the Chairman, Graeme Lade and the Chief Executive Officer, Joe Tooma, the group met the Department of Public Health’s director Dr Pandup Tshering and the department’s official on Wednesday to discuss on the renewal of the programme.
The Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine programme that started in Bhutan in 2010 with support from the ACCF ends this year. A total of 74,828 girls were vaccinated within 2014 under the nationwide vaccination campaign covering about 94 per cent of girls aged between 12-18 according to health records.
In Bhutan cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women after stomach cancer. It is also the biggest killer of women in most of the developing countries around the world.
Cervical cancer is caused by about 15 viruses causes called the Human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV are usually spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact. Usually the infected individuals don’t show any signs and symptoms of these viruses because the immune system of the individual removes the viruses in about a year or two.
About 80 per cent of the sexually active people are infected by HIP at some point of the their lifetime but due to the lack of vivid symptoms most of the infected individuals go unnoticed.
ACCF’s CEO Joe Tooma said that about 3 to 4 percent of the people wont be able to clear these viruses just with their immune system. “If the body can’t clear the viruses naturally it can go on to be precancerous or cancerous stage latter on. Some time it might take about five years for it to be cancerous,” he said.
The CEO added that the HPV vaccine prevents about 70 to 80 per cent of the viruses but doesn’t protect against all the viruses. “The vaccine is aimed to prevent against the two most common viruses,” he said. “About 80 per cent of cervical cancer is caused by two particular viruses and the vaccine helps fight against these two viruses.”
The ideal time to provide the girls with the vaccine is some time between nine and 13 years of age because that is when the the body best reacts to it. “The body creates the best immune response at this age,” said Tooma.
The CEO said that since the vaccination programme in Bhutan has been a big success achieving more than 90 per cent coverage rate, ACCF would like to extend the support programme till 2020 so that every 12 year old can receive the vaccine.
“ACCV has already provided enough vaccines for 2016. We want to negotiate on how we can help small girls get vaccinated until 2020,” the CEO said. “There’s a possibility that from 2016, the vaccine dosage may also be reduced to two from three. It will serve the same purpose and will be much easier and cheaper for the ministry.”
WHO has said that two dose vaccines, as long as it’s given more than six months apart is just as effective as the three dose vaccine.
Meanwhile, the technical advisory committee for immunization of the health ministry is looking on the possibilities of the change of the dosage and also on the renewal of the vaccination programme.
A minimum of USD 100,000 to 150,000 is invested for the vaccine every year.