By Duangkamon Sajirawattanakul
The move follows Deputy Public Health Minister Dr Surawit Khonsomboon’s announcement that the ministry would ask the Cabinet to approve its plan to incorporate the HPV vaccine into the national programme and allow girls aged over 12 to be vaccinated.
Under the plan, the ministry would allocate about Bt600 million to purchase vaccine from manufacturers. It is expected to cost Bt500 per dose. To be vaccinated, a woman needs to receive three doses. If the Cabinet approves the plan, about 400,000 girls aged over 12 would be vaccinated against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of death among women in Thailand, killing about 5,216 women per year. About 60 per cent of them are aged between 15 and 59.
The ministry estimates that the number of deaths will increase to 10,000 per year.
“We have to spend about Bt1 million on medication for patients suffering from cervical cancer. They need to undergo treatment for at least five years,” Surawit said.
“If we invest in purchasing vaccines from vaccine-makers, we could save 17 times [what we spend on treatment],” he said.
According to a study conducted by the Ministry’s Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Programme (HITAP), the price of HPV vaccine should not exceed Bt190 per dose.
Meanwhile, the price of HPV vaccine purchased by GAVI Alliance, formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, a public-private global health partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries, was not over Bt150 per dose.
“We have to think about the effectiveness of a vaccine compared with the price,” HITAP director Dr Yot Teerawattananon said.
“We have to understand that this vaccine can prevent infection by only two of the hundreds of strains of viruses that cause cervical cancer. This vaccine will take effect when women are 40 years old,” he added.
He urged the government to strengthen the screening test for the disease, which uses the pap smear as the main tool to prevent cervical cancer in women.