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Cancer support advocates alarmed over dwindling budget for vaccination

MANILA, Philippines — A cancer support advocacy group has expressed alarm over the dwindling budget for cervical cancer vaccination, saying it means not giving priority to women’s health in the country.

“The cuts not only threaten to undermine ongoing efforts to prevent cervical cancer but also signal deprioritization of women’s health,” Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh) vice president Carmen Auste said in a statement.

She stressed, “Increase the budget allocated for HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination. Eliminating cervical cancer is worth the budget increase. Let us not compromise our capacity as a nation to reduce avoidable deaths from this preventable cancer.”

“We should not put at risk the lives of these unserved, vulnerable young girls. We should act now, rather than regret the losses from our inaction later,” Auste added.

The group said, “The substantial drop in budget allocation means that out of seven Filipina girls who still needs to be vaccinated, only one will be able to receive at least a single dose of the vaccine. This significantly compromises the future health and well-being of the remaining unvaccinated young girls.”

Auste noted that the proposed 2024 Department of Health (DOH) budget would drastically reduce HPV vaccine doses available for the public, from 1.4 million in 2022 and 1 million in 2023, to just merely 750,000 doses.

“This setback derails the DOH’s “90-70-90” cervical cancer elimination targets (90 percent of 9- to 14-year-old girls vaccinated against HPV, 70 percent of women have undergone high-quality cervical cancer screening and 90 percent of diagnosed women receiving timely and appropriate care) set for 2030, aligned with global efforts led by the World Health Organization to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue,” said Auste.

According to the CCPh, these targets are doable if the DOH is provided with sufficient budget support.

The coalition pointed out that cervical cancer is preventable through HPV vaccination because 99.7 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection.

Recent WHO data indicate that the Philippines has achieved only 33 percent of its HPV vaccination target for girls under 15, a far