HPV vaccination in Singapore

April 10, 2019



The Singapore government has recently announced that girls in Secondary 1 will be able to opt in to receive free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations, to protect them against cervical cancer.



What does the HPV vaccination protect against?


The HPV vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).


The HPV virus is transmitted through sexual contact, and usually does not produce any symptoms. The virus is so common that most people who are sexually active will be infected by this virus at some point.


The virus may persist and cause cells in the cervix (the lower part of the womb) to grow abnormally, and eventually develop into cancer.


In Singapore, there were about 200 new cases of cervical cancer each year from 2011-2015. About 70 women die of the disease every year.


Why is the vaccination recommended for girls at 13 years old?


The benefits of the vaccine in protecting against cancer are maximised when given before any sexual activity where HPV infection may occur.


The effects of the vaccine are long-lasting, even if sexual contact happens many years later. This is similar to childhood vaccinations for other infections such as measles, or mumps, which are given well before any exposure to the infection.


The vaccine is licensed for use from 9 to 26 years old. If you are 26 years and younger, and have not received the vaccination, you are still eligible under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, with Medisave coverage of up to S$400.


If you are older than 26 years of age, please see a doctor to assess if you are suitable for the vaccine.


Are there any risks associated with the vaccination?


The vaccination has a strong safety profile. The vaccines consist of neither the live viruses or any infectious material – you cannot get HPV infection from the vaccines. The most reported adverse effects are pain and swelling at the site of injection.


Some parents are concerned that the vaccine will promote sexual activity. This is not the case. Many studies have shown that getting the HPV vaccine does not make teenagers more likely to be sexually active or start having sex at a younger age.


Most recently, a multi-year study on youth risk behaviour in the USA published in 2018 found no statistically significant difference in adolescent sexual behaviours in states with HPV vaccine legislation compared with states without the legislation.


HPV vaccines are extremely effective in preventing cervical cancer, offering over 90% protection. But they do not provide 100% coverage. Hence, you should still go for regular pap smears for cervical cancer screening.


If you have more questions regarding the HPV vaccination program, feel free to consult with our doctors to find out more.


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