The latest news from July - September 2020, concerning the human papillomavirus
Finland to start giving boys HPV vaccine
From Autumn 2020, Finland is to offer the HPV vaccine to boys as well as girls. Girls have been vaccinated against HPV in Finland since 2013, and the programme is being extended to boys following increasing knowledge about the cancers HPV is linked to. To start with, boys spanning across 5 school years will be vaccinated. After this, everyone will be vaccinated in the 5th grade as part of the national vaccinated program. This extension of the program will protect boys from HPV related diseases, and will also reduce overall HPV transmission, protecting girls as well. It is thought that, if a 70% vaccine coverage is achieved in Finland, 300 cancers will be prevented each year.
Study signals ‘continued need’ for HPV-awareness campaigns
A study carried out in Ireland has shown some troubling results about HPV awareness. Despite the fact that 80% of people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime, over 80% of people studied believe they will never contract the virus. 1000 people were surveyed on their knowledge of HPV. Half of them had no idea HPV can cause some cancers (eg anal or cervical). Each year in Ireland, over 400 HPV cancers are diagnosed, so it is worrying that there is limited knowledge of the virus and its consequences. These results highlight the need for HPV awareness campaigns. Ireland currently has a national immunisation program which makes the HPV vaccine available to boys and girls. It is hoped that this program will be successful in both achieving a high vaccine coverage and educating children about HPV and its associated cancers.
Health Canada extends HPV vaccine approval to men ages 27 to 45
Canada has extended its approval of the HPV vaccine to also include men ages 27 to 45. Since 2015, the vaccine has been approved for males ages 9 to 26, and females aged 9 to 45. Following increasing knowledge about HPV-related cancers (especially anal and penile cancers), that approval has been extended for men. This is a great step for age and gender equality in cancer prevention in Canada; a third of all HPV-related cancers occur in men and can be prevented with the vaccine.
Potential causal role of human papilloma viruses (HPVs) in prostate cancers
Following a review of previous studies from a team at the University of New South Wales, it is thought that HPV infections may play a role in causing some prostate cancers. James Lawson and Wendy Glenn looked at the results from 26 papers investigating HPV and prostate cancer, and found that HPV 16 and 18 were prevalent in prostate cancers when compared to normal prostates. Over 20% of prostate cancers were HPV positive, compared to under 7% of prostate controls. Glenn stated that they had “reasonably consistent evidence” from the studies that prostate cancers were much more likely to have high risk HPV types present than health tissue. With this evidence, it is suggested that there is a strong case to claim a causal role of HPV in prostate cancer. Therefore, universal, gender-neutral HPV vaccination is more important that ever.
Parental intent to initiate and complete the human papillomavirus vaccine series in the USA: a nationwide, cross-sectional survey
A study in The Lancet, using data from the 2017-2018 USA National Immunization Survey, has shown a significant lack of intent to initiate and complete the HPV vaccine series for teens from their parents. Over 80,000 adolescents were surveyed, with nearly 50% having not completed the full HPV vaccine series. 58% of parents of unvaccinated teens had no intention to get the vaccine for their child, and 24% of parents who had begun to vaccinate their child had no intention to complete the series. Parents stated safety concerns as the most common reason for not initiating vaccination, and a lack of healthcare provider recommendation was the most common reason for not completing the series. As the HPV vaccine is a cancer-preventing vaccine, it is essential that parents are not hesitant about vaccinating their children.