Guangdong province plans to ramp up vaccinations against the human papillomavirus, encouraging girls under 14 years of age to get the HPV vaccine free starting next year.
According to a statement released by its Department of Finance on Friday, Guangdong will invest an additional 600 million yuan ($92.3 million) to expand the HPV vaccination among women and girls until 2024.
All female students 14 years old or younger who have not yet been vaccinated can get the HPV vaccine free — if they volunteer and are properly informed — on campuses when they go to junior high school starting in September, the statement said.
The HPV vaccine can block the continuous infection of high-risk HPV and effectively reduce the incidence of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions.
Popularizing the HPV vaccine among school-age people is an effective measure to prevent and control cervical cancer, it said.
Despite cervical cancer being preventable through routine annual physical examinations, it's better to be vaccinated, the statement said.
Guangdong is not alone. A number of cities in Fujian, Jiangxi, Sichuan and Shandong provinces, as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, have begun or will soon start offering free HPV vaccines to young girls and other female residents, local authorities said.
Cervical cancer involves a malignant tumor that seriously threatens women's health. Long-term presence of high-risk HPV is a necessary condition for the occurrence of cervical cancer.
More than 70 percent of cervical cancers are caused by type 16 and 18 HPV infections. Domestically developed vaccines protect against both. These are the two most common virus strains responsible for cervical cancer, Guangdong health authorities said.
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.