Although a government program to provide free human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccinations to seventh-grade girls nationwide is scheduled to begin this month, a survey published by the Formosa Cancer Foundation showed that only about 30 percent of respondents knew about the program.
Government-funded HPV shots are to be provided at schools from the middle of this month, with the Ministry of Health and Welfare saying that girls in seventh grade and their parents would be informed about the vaccination and allowed to decide whether to receive it.
The ministry has bought bivalent vaccines that protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which are linked to about 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
The foundation collected more than 10,000 responses through an online survey between Oct. 26 and Nov. 30 and published the results on Monday last week.
It found that 68.9 percent of respondents knew that HPV infection of the cervix is the most common cause of cervical cancer, but only 54.5 percent knew that HPV infection can increase the likelihood of other diseases, such as genital warts.
About 79.1 percent of parents with children aged nine to 18 surveyed knew about the relationship between HPV infection and cervical cancer, the foundation said.
However, only about 30 percent of all respondents knew that free vaccines would be provided to seventh-grade girls from this month, it said.
Taiwan Immunization Vision and Strategy director-general Lee Ping-ying (李秉穎), a pediatrician at National Taiwan University Hospital, said that cervical cancer is among the 10 most commonly diagnosed cancers among women in Taiwan.
In addition to practicing safe sex and getting regular Pap smear tests, getting vaccinated is another effective method of protection, Lee said.
Nearly 90 countries have publicly funded HPV vaccination programs, and the WHO has prequalified HPV vaccines as safe and effective in preventing infection, he said, adding that parents should not worry about the vaccination.
Boys can also get vaccinated at their own expense to prevent genital warts, Lee added.
Eleven municipalities in Taiwan already provide free HPV vaccines, of which four have purchased quadrivalent vaccines and four have purchased nonavalent vaccines, which protect against more HPV types, he said.
That means parents can consult a doctor if they want their children to instead receive quadrivalent or nonavalent vaccines, but they would not be covered by the national program, Lee said.
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