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HPV testing, vaccination accessible to more women

Updated: Jul 16, 2021 Xinhua Print
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YINCHUAN - After months on the waiting list, Wang Xueling, in her 30s from Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was finally inoculated against human papillomavirus (HPV).

"Despite that cervical cancer is avoidable via yearly routine physical examinations, it's better to be vaccinated to stay healthy," said Wang.

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. In China, there were approximately 106,000 cases of cervical cancer and 48,000 deaths from the disease in 2018.

Women like Wang used to be unsure whether to get an HPV shot in places like Hong Kong as it was frequently out of stock on the Chinese mainland.

However, following the first self-developed HPV vaccine to hit the market last year, China has become the third country globally to achieve an independent cervical cancer vaccine supply after the United States and the United Kingdom.

Not only are imported 2-, 4- and 9-valent HPV vaccines available on the market in China but the self-developed two-dose vaccine for women under the age of 45 promises more accessibility nationwide with its larger production capacity and lower price.

In Ningxia, for example, more than 73,000 doses of HPV vaccines were administered from 2018 to May this year. Among them, the number of inoculations in 2020 was nearly three times that of 2019. In the first five months of this year, 74 percent of the vaccination volume of last year had been completed.

However, the growing awareness of HPV vaccination and the large population also brought on the headache of short supply.

"On one hand, women willing to be vaccinated should be inoculated against HPV as early as possible," said Zhou Liwei, a health official of the Ningxia regional disease prevention and control center. "On the other hand, the publicity campaign on early measures to prevent cervical cancer should improve to include those in rural areas especially."

China implemented a cervical cancer screening program in major national public health services in 2009 to popularize the ideas of early screening, diagnosis and treatment.

More than 120 million cervical cancer examinations have been conducted free of charge across the nation, covering nearly 2,600 counties, cities and districts, data released from the National Health Commission in April said.

Benefiting from the advanced screening technology, more women in rural areas are becoming more aware of their health conditions. A growing number of them are willing to be included in the cervical cancer screening program, said Bao Fenglan, a community health worker in Ningxia's Qingtongxia city.

The screening program is followed by a slate of other measures, such as an insurance program to provide financial support to women infected with HPV and psychological guidance, said Li Jinhong, deputy head of the city's women's federation.

China will introduce a pilot program to promote the HPV vaccine and improve the rate and quality of cervical cancer screening nationwide this year, the National Health Commission said.

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