MELAKA: A cancer advocacy body hopes to work closely with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and companies to spearhead its ambitious plan to protect girls from the lower-and middle-income brackets against cervical cancer.
National Cancer Society of Malaysia’s managing director Associate Prof Dr M.Murallitharan said the efforts to revitalise human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine inoculations to reach teen girls needs the support from various stakeholders including from students of higher learning institutions.
"We need strategic partners to ensure our girls are protected against cervical cancer – a life-threatening yet vaccine-preventable disease," he said in an interview on Wed (Nov 26).
Dr Murallitharan said the initiative to improve coverage and build sustainable vaccination programmes was materialised after 300,000 doses of the HPV vaccine worth RM90mil were donated by MSD Pharmaceuticals.
He said the programme to eliminate cervical cancer was launched by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 23 where the event was also attended by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul and Chairman of Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Health, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Dr Murallitharan said about 1,500 doses of the vaccine worth about RM500,000 had been allocated for each parliamentary constituency to ensure girls from deserving groups are vaccinated.
"Hence, we need the support to promote sustainability through the integration of HPV vaccination into routine immunisation and primary health care," he said.
Dr Murallitharan said based on the speech by Dr Zaliha during the event, it was revealed that cervical cancer was the third most common cancer among women.
She also told the attendees that more than 40% of these cancer cases were diagnosed late, with only about 30% of patients still alive within five years of their diagnosis.
Dr Murallitharan said on the global level, HPV caused more than 95% of cervical cancer cases worldwide and was the most common cause of female cancer death.
He said despite efforts made by countries, global vaccination coverage rates for fully vaccinated girls remain low, leaving millions of women and girls vulnerable to the virus.
He added that it’s also a moment of opportunity for those keen to spearhead corporate social responsibility programmes to join hands with NCSM to help improve immunisation coverage.
Those interested can visit www.hpv.cancer.org.my.