HPV vaccine for 12-year-olds only?
Earlier this week, the Ministry for Health announced the offering of a free vaccine against cervical cancer to 12 year-old girls as part of the national cancer plan. A reader of di-ve.com, M Schranz, commented that “a vaccine is normally given to everyone who wants it and putting a maximum age on its availability is discriminatory.” Schranz added, “After all, treatment of a cancer case costs thousands of vaccine doses, so ultimately the country is losing out later, but certainly the victim/s who had been in time to take the HPV vaccine now but are left out will certainly be very bitter about it.”
Speaking to di-ve.com, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said that as with all other policies for vaccines offered for free on the National Schedule, there is always a cut-off point for eligibility. In the case of the HPV vaccine, the optimum time for administration of the vaccine is between the ages of 11 and 12 years.
The spokesman added that “to optimise the effect of an HPV vaccination programme, a high proportion of the invited girls need to get all three doses before the start of any sexual activity.”
“The vaccine is most effective in young people who have not yet acquired any of the HPV types covered by the vaccine. Also, the vaccine produces higher levels of antibody that fight infection when given at this age compared to older ages. In line with several other EU countries, Malta is introducing this vaccine on the National Immunisation Schedule for all girls born in 2000 and others on reaching their 12th birthday,” he said.