Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Health Ministry is planning to expand the coverage of free immunization against cervical cancer in all cities and districts of Indonesia this year.

"This priority program is part of a preventive (and) promotive effort by introducing new types of vaccines that are added to the national immunization program, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine," the ministry's director general of disease prevention and control, Maxi Rein Rondonuwu, said in a statement released on Thursday.

He informed that the expansion of the HPV immunization program is part of the government's efforts to protect Indonesian girls from cervical cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Indonesia.

"This HPV vaccine will be given free of charge and is very important to protect girls from cervical cancer," he added.

Rondonuwu noted that the death rate from cancer has reached 50 percent because patients often do not seek treatment immediately.

"Please convey to the community, especially those who have daughters aged 11 and 12 years, to immediately take advantage of this government program," he said.

HPV immunization was introduced several years ago: starting with Jakarta province in 2016, the immunization was expanded to 20 districts/cities by 2021, and then 112 districts/cities by 2022, he informed.

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The vaccination will be carried out for students through the School Children Immunization Month or BIAS, he said.

He emphasized that to accelerate a reduction in morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer, at least 90 percent HPV immunization coverage is required.

The government's commitment to make the HPV immunization a success has been reflected by the issuance of the Joint Decree of Four Ministers, namely the Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology; Minister of Health; Minister of Religious Affairs; and Minister of Home Affairs concerning the Implementation of Improving Students Health Status.

The decision mandates all elementary schools and their equivalent to run a complete immunization program for each student, including HPV immunization.

"In addition, the role of the local government and the education sector is very important to succeed this program," Rondonuwu said.

Cervical cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer deaths and one of the biggest health financing burdens in Indonesia.

According to Globican data, Indonesia recorded 36,633 cases of cervical cancer in 2021, along with an increasing trend in the death rate.

The causes varied, but most cases, or around 95 percent, were caused by human papillomavirus or HPV infection.

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Translator: Andi Firdaus, Resinta S
Editor: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
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