Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is capable of infecting humans. It usually affects the skin or the mucous membrane. Most HPV infections are not detectable by clinical tests and will not cause any obvious physical symptom. However some infections will become clinical and may cause benign papillomas such as warts, or cancers of the cervix, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anus.
Embodied by the practice of immunization, the maxim “prevention is better than cure” has been applied to many fields but is central and essential to public health. As vaccines are able to prevent serious infectious diseases across the life span, immunization programs must be designed to optimally reach those segments of the population like infants, children, adolescents, pregnant women and senior citizens. HPV vaccine is an inactivated vaccine which means it is grown in culture and then killed so that it can be rendered non-infectiously. This vaccine protects against four major types of HPV. These include two types that cause about 70% of cervical cancer and two types that cause about 90% of genital warts. HPV vaccine can prevent most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer. Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be long-lasting. But vaccinated women still need cervical cancer screening because the vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. It is routinely recommended to be given to children as young as 9 years of age to 12 years old. It is important for girls to get HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact because they have not been exposed to HPV.
The Department of Health Regional Office XII in coordination with the Municipal Local Government and the Department of Education, Division of Cotabato launched the free immunization for all Grades 1, 4 and 7 last August 3, 2015 at Midsayap Pilot Elementary School. The School-based Immunization Program dubbed “Bakuna para sa Kabataan, Proteksyon sa Kinabukasan” is a national strategy to increase the number of adolescents protected from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and HPV-related infections. The program extends until the month of September 2015 to increase the coverage among the target population.
Teams composed of public health nurses, school nurses, rural health midwives, nurses under Nurse Deployment Program (NDP) and midwives under Rural Health Midwife Placement Program (RHMPP) spearheaded the implementation and success of the immunization program. The team covered all public elementary and secondary schools in the municipality of Midsayap which started last August 3, 2015 and lasted on September 3, 2015. Eighty-six percent (86%) of Grade 1 and eighty-seven percent (87%) of Grade 7 students of the target population were given Measles-Rubella (MR) and Tetanus-Diphtheria (TD).
Administration of HPV vaccine for all 9-year old Grade 4 students enrolled in public schools will continue on September 21, 2015. The delay in the administration of HPV was caused by the unavailability of vaccines. Despite the challenge, the SBI team will continue to render health services unselfishly. The table below shows the schedule of continuing school-based immunization.