Chances are you’ve heard whispers about HPV vaccination in Singapore from your close circles and colleagues. But what exactly does this vaccination do?
The HPV vaccination greatly reduces your chances of an HPV infection, which lowers the risk of you developing cancer. Cancer is the top cause of death in Singapore. In fact, cervical cancer—which is commonly caused by HPV— is the 10th most common cancer amongst women in Singapore. Statistics show that an average of 400 women contract cervical cancer every year, with half of them dying from the disease.
We’re here to give you the rundown about everything you need to know about HPV, and why it is essential to get vaccinated.
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of common viruses that causes infections in both men and women. The HPV group consists of more than 100 different strains.
To give you a sense of how easy it is to get infected with HPV, eight out of 10 people will contract this virus at some point in their lives. Despite the high possibility of being infected with HPV, not all strains lead to cancer. HPV types are categorised into two groups: low-risk and high-risk strains.
Most low-risk HPV strains can clear up on their own, and usually do not result in any adverse health effects. But high-risk strains are what you should keep an eye out for.
Only about a dozen of all HPV strains are high-risk. But repeated exposure to these HPV types can cause cancer and other diseases.
How is HPV transmitted?
As one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases in the world, HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, mostly through sexual activity including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Experts highly recommend the use of condoms to protect against HPV infections. While it’s not a fool-proof method, consistent and correct use of condoms reduces the risk of STDs.
Another way HPV spreads is through non-sexual mode. Though uncommon, HPV can be transmitted from a mother to child through the bloodstream before birth or through the vaginal canal during birth.
What is the HPV vaccination?
You might have the misconception that getting an HPV vaccination in Singapore is purely for women. But that’s not true. Check out this article to see the five common misconceptions people have about HPV vaccination.
Although it’s marketed heavily by the government as prevention against cervical cancer for women, HPV vaccination also greatly benefits men.
HPV vaccination can help prevent conditions such as:
- Genital warts in men and women
- Oral, anal and penile cancer in men
- Cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women
The HPV infection is found in over four types of common cancers. Here’s a table that shows the different strains of HPV and the types of health problems they could lead to:
|HPV types||Health problems caused|
|6, 11||Genital warts, anal cancer (rare)|
|Most common: 16, 18|
Less common: 31, 45, 52, 58
|Cervical, vaginal, anal, penile and oral cancer|
Why should you get an HPV vaccination in Singapore?
The HPV vaccination is incredibly comprehensive and has shown to be able to target high-risk HPV strains effectively.
HPV vaccinations can protect against 70 – 90% of high-risk HPV strains, and hence lowering the risk of getting a cancer. HPV vaccination also protects your loved one from getting infected with HPV.
As HPV infection usually shows no symptoms, it can be difficult to know if you or your sexual partner have been infected. That’s why getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to prevent exposure and transmission.
HPV infection in men
Experts have noticed that HPV has a higher chance of causing life-threatening cancers to women than men. While men are less susceptible to developing HPV-related health problems, minor HPV symptoms such as genital warts are common among men. Once developed, these genital warts tend to take longer to clear.
Genital warts take time to show on your body after infection. This could take up to months post-infection, during which you may transmit HPV to a sexual partner.
Low-risk HPV infections such as the development of warts can frequently recur as current treatments are unable to cure underlying HPV infections. Unlike viral infections like chickenpox, developing an HPV infection once doesn’t make you immune to the disease.
HPV infection can increase a man’s risk of getting genital cancers, although these cancers are not common.
Before deciding whether or not to go for an HPV vaccination in Singapore, there are several things you’ll need to know.
What are the different types of HPV vaccination in Singapore?
There are three kinds of HPV vaccinations in Singapore to choose from. Each vaccination protects against different strains of HPV.
Cervarix offers the least coverage out of the lot. It prevents the two most common cancer-causing strains of HPV—16 and 18. It’s also the most affordable out of the three HPV vaccines offered in Singapore, with prices averaging at $360.
This vaccine is offered for free in schools, for all Secondary One female Singaporean citizens and permanent residents. However, do note that it’s on an entirely opt-in basis, and will require parental approval.
Cervarix is also available at all polyclinics and is only for females up to the age of 26.
2. Gardasil 4
Gardasil 4 is the most prevalent HPV vaccination in Singapore and is available for both men and women. Gardasil 4 protects against four HPV strains. These include HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.
As one of the stronger HPV vaccinations you can get in Singapore, this vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer to 30%. You can find Gardasil 4 at most GPs and private hospitals.
3. Gardasil 9
Offering the most coverage out of the three is Gardasil 9. This is a relatively new vaccine compared to the other two.
Similar to its sister vaccine, Gardasil 9 covers HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. On top of that, Gardasil 9 also protects against the rarer HPV strains: 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. All these strains are considered high-risk strains.
This vaccine type is available at GPs and private hospitals, and is suited for both males and females.
Which HPV vaccine should you get?
Before getting your HPV vaccination in Singapore, you should consider several factors. These include coverage, price, and whether you have any pre-existing health conditions or allergies.
It’s also important to note the strains of HPV that each vaccine covers. For example, Cervarix only guards against strains 16 and 18, which means it doesn’t cover other HPV strains, such as those that could cause genital warts.
Choosing the best HPV vaccination also depends on how sexually active you are. If you regularly engage in sexual activity with more than one partner, you might want to consider getting Gardasil 9. Being sexually active with different partners increases the risk of exposure to more strains of HPV.
Choosing a higher coverage vaccine like Gardasil 9 will ensure that you’re protected against less common, and high-risk strains of HPV.
On the other hand, if you’re only engaging or plan to engage with three or less sexual partners, Gardasil 4 should be sufficient.
How many doses of HPV vaccination are there?
Children from nine to 13 years old require two doses of the HPV vaccination. The two doses are taken with an interval of six months.
For ages 14 to 26, three doses are required. The second dose is taken two months after the first, and the third four months after the second. This makes the total administering period at least six months.
Multiple doses of the vaccine are needed to ensure an optimal immune response, so do stick to the vaccination schedule provided by your doctor.
Do you have to go for an HPV vaccination in Singapore?
The short answer is no. HPV vaccinations are not compulsory in Singapore. However, it is highly recommended by experts.
While there are treatments for the symptoms caused by HPV, there’s no treatment for the virus itself. Being infected by a strain of HPV might mean that you’ll be infected for a prolonged period of time. This long incubation period of various infections could evolve and cause your cells to mutate, thus leading to cancer.
HPV vaccination can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if given before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus. It can also prevent related genital cancers and genital warts in both men and women.
As with any vaccination, HPV vaccinations do not guarantee a 100 percent protection and should not be substituted for routine cervical cancer screening. Women who have received vaccination are still encouraged to undergo Pap tests once every 3-5 years.
Are you eligible for an HPV vaccination in Singapore?
Anyone is eligible for an HPV vaccination in Singapore. But the efficacy of the vaccination vastly differs based on the age you get vaccinated.
HPV vaccination is recommended as a form of protection, and not treatment. This is because the vaccine works best before you start engaging in sexual activity.
Exposure to HPV strains is close to zero before becoming sexually active, which is why experts strongly encourage both men and women to get vaccinated against HPV from as early as nine, up to 26 years old. This ensures that you haven’t been in sexual contact with a person who has an HPV infection, reducing your chances of being infected yourself.
The vaccine is usually not recommended for pregnant women. This includes females who might have become pregnant in between vaccination doses.
It’s recommended that pregnant women wait until after their pregnancy to finish any remaining doses of the vaccine. If you’re currently pregnant and considering an HPV vaccination, do check with your doctor if it’s the right course of action.
Can you still get an HPV vaccination in Singapore if you’ve been sexually active?
You should consider getting an HPV vaccination in Singapore even if you’ve been sexually active.
Being sexually active doesn’t mean you’ve been exposed to every single HPV strain. Opting for an HPV vaccination in Singapore even after being sexually active can help to protect you against other HPV types that you have not been exposed to.
This could also help to lower the rate of transmission of these strains. Many people have the preconception that the HPV vaccine protects against all cancer-causing HPV types. Although it does protect against some, the HPV vaccine does not cover all cancer-causing HPV types.
Since the vaccine does not prevent some forms of cancer, it’s important to supplement the vaccine with regular health screenings, especially if you’re above the age of 26. This includes pap-smears and routine HPV tests for women as they get older.
Early detection is one of the best ways to formulate a cancer-treatment plan, increasing the chances of you beating cancer.
Where can you get an HPV vaccination in Singapore?
It’s convenient to get an HPV vaccination in Singapore. Simply head down to your local polyclinic or GP. Other places that offer HPV vaccinations in Singapore include private hospitals and the DSC clinic.
Do take note that polyclinics only carry the Cervarix vaccine. If you decide to opt for either the Gardasil 4 or Gardasil 9 vaccination, head down to a GP or hospital to get your shot.
The price of getting an HPV vaccination can also vary depending on the location you pick, due to differing consultation fees.
We’ve compiled a list of prices from polyclinics, GPs and private hospitals to give you an idea of how much it costs to get an HPV vaccination in Singapore:
|Clinic||Type of vaccination||Cost of vaccination*|
|DSC Clinic||Gardasil 4||$285|
|Telok Blangah Clinic||Gardasil 4|
|Dr Tan and Partners||Gardasil 4|
|Kensington Family Clinic||Gardasil 4|
|Raffles Medical||Gardasil 9||$688|
|Month Elizabeth Hospital||Gardasil 9||$690|
|Asia Health Partners||Cervarix|
* The prices are accurate at the time of writing. Do give the clinic a call to confirm the prices of the vaccination before making an appointment.
Although the prices of the HPV vaccinations in Singapore differ, it’s important to choose a vaccine based on your health requirements and not its price.
Ready for your HPV vaccination?
While the HPV vaccination is increasing in popularity, many are still unaware of what the vaccination does and the way the virus transmits.
This boils down to the many misconceptions and lack of education about sexual health. In Singapore, discussions about sex and sexual health are still considered taboo. Many people, including the youth, still feel embarrassed to talk about their sexual history.
We believe that understanding your sexual health is an important step to stay informed and in-tune with your body’s needs. This should begin at a young age.
Here at MyDoc, we want to give you a safe space to consult your doctor about any queries you might have. That’s why we’ve partnered with Dr Tan and Partners (DTAP) to provide convenient health screening scheduling and reviews, with certified medical professionals.
A renowned clinic chain specialising in women’s and men’s health, DTAP clinic offers a comfortable and discreet environment to learn all about your sexual health. You can now reach the doctors at DTAP directly from the MyDoc app.