Prevent maternal, child mortality from cancer, infections: minister

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has said that the deaths of mothers and children to cancer and infections are two serious medical issues in Indonesia that need to be tackled at the earliest.

“The rate of maternal mortality due to cancer is high, and the (most common) case of cancers are breast cancer and cervical (cancer). On the other hand, the causes for most children’s deaths are diarrhea and pneumonia,” Sadikin noted during a virtual press conference at the commemoration of the 2022 World Immunization Day, accessed on the Health Ministry’s YouTube channel here on Friday.

The 2020 National Health Profile Data showed a high prevalence of pneumonia among toddlers at 3.55 per 100 toddlers. This means that 3-4 out of 100 toddlers suffered from pneumonia.

According to GLOBOCAN data, breast cancer was the most common cancer in Indonesia, with 65,858 new cases and 22,430 deaths in 2020. In more than 80 percent of the cases, patients were first diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, when treatment is difficult.

The Health Ministry reported that cervical cancer was the second leading cause of death for Indonesian women, accounting for 36,633 or 9.2 percent of total cancer cases. The high mortality rate due to cancer was caused by, among other things, the low rate of screening, with coverage pegged at 8.29 percent.

The minister said that cervical cancer and the associated mortality can be prevented through some preventive measures, such as human papillomavirus vaccinations (HPV), and early detection methods.

Based on the recommendation of the National Immunization Expert Advisory Committee, the government, through the Health Ministry, has conducted a demonstration program on HPV immunization since 2016, Sadikin informed.

The HPV vaccine is more effective in reducing the prevalence of cervical cancer when administered to participants who are yet to start menstruating.

“Once you have menstruation, (the HPV vaccine) is not effective in reducing the prevalence of cervical cancer. Which is why we attempt to give it to all children in grades 5 and 6 of elementary school,” he said.

These requirements are included in the rules for administering the HPV vaccines, which must be observed by the stakeholders, Sadikin said. As technology develops, it will become possible to administer the vaccine to other age groups.

“Hopefully, vaccination technology will continue to develop so we can expedite its coverage,” he added.

The same thing applies to COVID-19 vaccines, which were only administered to people aged 18 years and over when they were first introduced in Indonesia. However, with technological development, the coverage was expanded to the 18–12 and 6–11 age groups.

Sadikin said that the HPV vaccine has been included in the complete basic immunization package since 2021, which is mandatory in Indonesia. There are 11 types of vaccinations that have been included in the basic immunization category, he added.

However, he said that during his first 15 months as Health Minister, he saw that cheaper and more effective medical interventions were conducted upstream, not downstream.

He deemed it would be much more cost-efficient to undertake preventive and promotive efforts such as vaccinations, wearing masks, and social distancing, rather than getting treated in a hospital.

“If you are sick, you need (antiviral drug) Remdesivir. It costs tens of millions already. Actemra costs hundreds of millions. If vaccination costs hundreds of thousands, in terms of effectiveness, it is much more effective if the intervention is upstream,” he said.

To anticipate pneumonia, the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) has been provided, while for diarrhea, the Rotavirus vaccine has been made available.

These three vaccinations will be included in the basic immunization pack, which will be administered gradually, the minister informed.

Source: Antara News

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June 2023