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HPV News: September 2019

The latest news roundup from the world of human papillomavirus (HPV) in September 2019. Missed a story? Let us know.

Boys in the Netherlands Will Be Vaccinated From 2021

The Dutch government has announced that, from 2021, their HPV vaccination programme will extend to children of all genders. The vaccination age will also be lowered to nine. Following advice from the National Health Council, parliament has decided that vaccinating boys and girls will better prevent the incidence of HPV-related cancers nationwide, as well as improving herd immunity against HPV. While The Netherlands has been vaccinating girls against HPV since 2010, the extended rollout to boys is fantastic news for cancer prevention and we hope that even more countries will follow suit.

UK Begins Rollout of Gender-Neutral HPV Vaccine

In the United Kingdom, September marks the start of the long awaited gender-neutral HPV vaccination programme. The UK has been vaccinating girls since 2008, in a government effort to prevent cervical cancer. Since the initial rollout of the vaccine, research has pointed to evidence that HPV can also cause a number of other cancers, such as anal, penile, head, vaginal, vulvar, and neck cancers. On the back of this new research, the UK government is offering the HPV vaccine to all boys and girls in year eight. Parents are being urged to take up the opportunity to have their children vaccinated against HPV and against preventable cancers.

WHO Drafts Strategy to Eliminate Cervical Cancer

The World Health Organisation has taken the step of drafting a full strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer. While cervical cancer is still the fourth most common cancer amongst women, it is a nearly completely preventable cancer. The HPV vaccine provides nearly 100% protection against infections of the two major strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers, as well as several other types of throat, anal and other cancers. The WHO has proposed that at least 90% of girls under 15 should be vaccinated against HPV by 2030. Extending the vaccine to boys would also be incredibly beneficial in avoiding many preventable cancers. Public health leaders must now follow suit implementing this strategy within their countries, to create what could be the biggest medical success story of our generation.

China is Increasing Public Access to the HPV Vaccine

According to a new widespread cancer prevention plan, China’s government is taking steps to increase both awareness of and access to the HPV vaccine. Due to lower awareness and supplies, China currently has a low uptake of the vaccine. To rectify this, they are expected to increase domestic vaccine production. In particular, lower income families and regions will be targeted through the plan, giving them more opportunity to be vaccinated.

One Dose HPV Vaccine Has the Potential to Boost Vaccine Impact

A recent study has shown that a single dose HPV vaccine could boost the worldwide impact of the vaccine. Current evidence has shown that a single dose has the potential to have the desired HPV prevention effect of the current two-dose programme. Even if the single dose was shown to be less effective that the double dose programme, it is possible that a worldwide one-dose rollout could be effective in preventing HPV infections. Mathematical models have been implemented to optimise the cost effectiveness and medical impact of a one-versus-two-dose strategy. The results are encouraging: a one-dose vaccination programme is shown to be greatly beneficial on a population level, and could compensate for its lower efficacy if it meant that a greater coverage could be achieved. A one-dose programme may be a useful, cost-effective, more feasible plan for countries who have not yet begun their HPV vaccinations.

Australia’s HPV Vaccination Programme Could Eliminate Cervical Cancer by 2028

Australia has been vaccinating girls against the HPV virus since 2007, and the programme has been extended to boys since 2013. Since its rollout, the Australian government has been successful in promoting the HPV vaccine as a beneficial medical decision for all parents and children. Thanks to the length of the programme and its high uptake rates, Australia is on the verge of eliminating cervical cancer, and potentially the HPV virus itself. In an encouraging study, Lancet Public Health has estimated that, by 2028, Australia could have completely eradicated cervical cancer.

On the back of this research, the CDC is urging more vaccination recommendation in the USA (which currently has a very low rate of vaccine uptake). It has highlighted that almost 92% of HPV-related cancers could be eradicated with proper use of the vaccine. It is hoped that the USA succeeds in increasing its vaccine uptake rate.

70% of Americans Do Not Know the Risks of HPV

More than 70% of people in the USA are not aware of all the cancers that can be caused by HPV. It has been shown that the HPV vaccination is effective in preventing strains of the virus that can cause cervical, anal, penile, vulvar, vaginal, oral, and head and neck cancers. While this information is widely available, researchers have found that many are not aware of the links between HPV, the vaccine, and the various cancers it can cause. This lack of knowledge is leading to a low uptake of the vaccine and hence a low rate of cancer prevention. In particular, men are less informed about the benefits of HPV vaccination. The CDC has recommended that all children be vaccinated by the age of 11 and 12, and also that any unvaccinated people below 26 get the vaccine. The responsibility is now in the hands of healthcare professionals and campaigns to inform people of the benefits of and access to the vaccine.


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