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9 November 2006
Cervical cancer: Vaccine available locally

KUALA LUMPUR: A vaccine for cervical cancer, the second-deadliest cancer among women, is now available locally. The Health Ministry last week approved the vaccine which was developed by a pharmaceutical company.

Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) president Dr Abd Aziz Yahya said this was a major milestone and girls from the age of 12 could be vaccinated.

The vaccine must be taken in three doses. Each dose costs several hundred ringgit. According to patent law, no generic drug can be developed until the patent period ends, which may take years.

"Cervical cancer is closely linked to sexual activity and trying to get mothers to let us vaccinate their daughters is not going to be easy," Dr Aziz said.

He said OGSM was in discussions with the Health Ministry on incorporating cervical cancer vaccination in the National Immunisation Schedule.

In 2003, there were 1,557 new cases of cervical cancer, occurring in 16.3 per 100,000 women. A similar yearly trend has been observed in the past few years.

Dr Aziz told women to go for pap smear, a simple procedure which can be performed by general practitioners to test for cervical cancer and other infections. "Only about 30 per cent of women do the test."

Dr Aziz, who is also the national organising chairman of the Figo World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 2006 (Figo 2006) at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here which ends tomorrow, said Malaysia had a "slightly adulterated" view on issues concerning women's reproductive and sexual health.

"People are more worried about coming out too vocally about issues due to the political connotations and implications."

On Monday, Figo released a world report on women's health themed "Women's Right to Health and the Millennium Development Goals: Promoting Partnerships to Improve Access".

The report covers maternal and newborn care, abortion, contraception, cervical cancer and fertility, among others.

Figo organising committee chairman Lord Naren Patel said in the past 50 years, women's health issues seemed to have moved backwards.

"It is largely because the world does not seem to recognise women's status in society and their rights."

In many countries, he added, women's health issues were held up because their education level was not on par with men.

Source by: The New Straits Times Press



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