Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women and continues to be among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the Philippines.
Esteban Abada Elementary School Principal Jocelyn A. Lopez, Asst. Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Noel Bagano, DepEd Asec. Dr. Dexter A. Galban, Parents-Teachers Association President Hernan Gana, Mr. Mon Paolo Padanas from the Office of Rep. Arjo Atayde, MPH- Regional Director of Metro Manila Center for Health Development/DOH NCR Dr. Aleli Annie Grace P. Sudiacal and MSD in the Philippines President and Managing Director Andreas Riedel join students at Esteban Abada Elementary School as they form a human cervical cancer ribbon to commemorate the school-based immunization launch in Quezon City.
In a multi-stakeholder effort to promote a healthy future for young learners, the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Local Government of Quezon City, in partnership with healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, organized a school-based vaccination event titled “Sa Aking Paglaki, Walang HPV” at Esteban Abada Elementary School in Quezon City. As part of the school-based immunization program, grade 4 students ages 9 to 13 will receive two doses of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to help protect them against HPV-related diseases and cancers, such as cervical cancer. This year, the program aims to vaccinate 15,000 eligible students in Quezon City.
The event was organized pursuant to DepEd Memorandum No. 173, series of 2017, also known as the “Inclusion of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination in School-Based Immunization Program,” as well as DOH Department Memorandum No. 2015-0316, also known as “Guidelines in the Implementation of HPV Vaccination.”
DOH OIC-Undersecretary Dr. Beverly Ho thanked the stakeholders for launching the HPV school-based immunization program in the city and expressed the commitment of the DOH to providing learners with a healthier future.
“We would like to thank our partners today for taking a stand against HPV and, more importantly, bringing life to school-based immunization. We laud the local government of Quezon City for always being an early adopter and innovator,” Dr. Ho said. “HPV infections is one of the vaccine-preventable diseases, but what makes it more relevant is the fact that some strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer,” Dr. Ho added.
Dr. Erwin De Mesa, a leading OB-oncologist from the Philippine Gynecology Society, gave a lecture on what HPV is and its effects on the human body.
“HPV is a virus with over 100 sub-types that can affect both men and women. About 30-40 subtypes are considered high-risk that may possibly develop into cancer,” Dr. De Mesa said.
“HPV vaccination helps prevent cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases and cancers. Besides getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, women should also undergo regular pap smear tests to detect the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells,” Dr. De Mesa explained. “Cervical cancer may be treated and cured if detected in its early stages. If treatment is not provided, cervical cancer may be fatal. That’s why we are encouraging women to consult their health care provider about vaccination and screening to help reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in the country,” Dr. De Mesa added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Connie Gepanayao, Head of the School Health and Nutrition Section of DepEd-NCR, emphasized that there is a need to address adolescents’ health and development needs.
“I believe that today’s activity is only the beginning of succeeding interventions of the Schools Division Office of Quezon City to strengthen programs for adolescent reproductive health,” Dr. Gepanayao said.
DepEd Assistant Secretary for Youth Affairs & Special Concerns Dr. Dexter A. Galban also graced the event and highlighted the importance of health and education in creating a better future for the youth.
“It is imperative for us to show that education and health are an integral part of the formation of our learners. It is important for us to highlight that through our initiatives, by teaching the next generation of leaders how to take care of themselves and protect their future, we will be able to build a better nation,” Asec. Galban said.
On behalf of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Dr. Krizia Linsangan of the Project 7 Health Center cited the increasing number of cases of cervical cancer should prompt students and parents to have their children vaccinated.
“Cervical cancer is a vaccine-preventable disease, which is why it is important for us to get vaccinated early on. We are working closely with our stakeholders to enhance our information dissemination about this pressing health issue and to encourage more parents to allow their children to get vaccinated,” Dr. Lisangan said.
Addressing the burden of HPV and cervical cancer
In the Philippines, 37.8 million women are at risk for cervical cancer, with an annual burden of 7,897 cervical cancer cases and 4,052 deaths. However, despite government efforts to curb cervical cancer, the Philippines lags behind other low-middle-income countries when it comes to HPV vaccination coverage, where only 23% of the target population got their first dose, and only 5% got their final dose.
Most cases of cervical cancer may be prevented with HPV vaccination if the vaccine is given before girls or women are exposed to the virus. In addition to vaccination, cervical cancer screening is still recommended as it is equally important to mitigate and control the effects of cervical cancer among Filipina women.
Stakeholders unite to strengthen our ‘Kalasag ng Kalusugan
Dra. Krizia Linsangan of the Quezon City Project 7 Health Center, DepEd Asec. Dr. Dexter A. Galban, Mark Christian Paez of the Department of Health, and MSD in the Philippines President and Managing Director Andreas Riedel form the “Kalasag ng Kalusugan” as part of “Sa Aking Paglaki Walang HPV” commitment exercise.
At the launch, government and private sector stakeholders, including Dra. Krizia Linsangan of the Quezon City Project 7 Health Center, DepEd Asec. Dr. Dexter A. Galban, Mark Christian Paez of the Department of Health, and MSD in the Philippines President and Managing Director Andreas Riedel pledged their continued support to the health department’s cervical cancer elimination program by forming a symbolic health shield or “Kalasag ng Kalusugan.”
The “Kalasag ng Kalusugan” commitment exercise brings together health authorities, the education department, the local government units, and parents to embrace a whole-of-society approach to strengthen their efforts to help protect children against cervical cancer through vaccination.
Vaccination is like a shield or “kalasag” that may help protect communities against diseases because it builds immunity against infectious diseases. When individuals are vaccinated, they develop antibodies that recognize and fight off specific disease-causing pathogens4. As a result, if an individual is exposed to the disease, their immune system is able to mount a rapid response and prevent the infection from taking hold.
Vaccination also helps protect the community as a whole by creating what’s known as herd immunity. When a large proportion of the population is vaccinated against a disease, it becomes much harder for the disease to spread from person to person. This is because there are fewer susceptible individuals for the disease to infect, and the pathogen is less likely to find a host to thrive in.
Pupils from Esteban Abada Elementary School in Quezon City receive their first dose of HPV vaccine during the ceremonial vaccination flanked by stakeholders from the education and health departments, and patners from the private sector.
The Department of Health, including its partner organizations and stakeholders, vows to work together and ramp up government programs to address the challenges that the country faces in creating an HPV-free society.