Last month, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) consulted on guidance on HPV vaccination in EU countries, with gender neutral HPV vaccination one of the core areas covered.
We believe that the response was disappointing in that it did not provide enough weight to the argument around the benefits gender neutral HPV vaccination could provide.
Some of NOMAN’s points are below:
The current phrasing of the report downplays the significance of other diseases caused by HPV. This virus is the causal agent of 5% of cancer.
Only recommending a HPV vaccination programme to protect against cervical cancer propagates the myth that HPV is a female only problem, and efforts to protect men against HPV-related disease will be undermined. A recent European level study highlighted the significant lack of awareness around the HPV-related cancer burden in Europe, among this only 1 in 3 knew that HPV can caused cancer in men. Ultimately, the WHO target of cervical cancer elimination would be be assisted by vaccinating both boys and girls, in addition to the 5 other cancers caused by the virus.
Gender neutral HPV vaccination provides a greater opportunity to reach those ‘hard to reach’ pockets of the female population who don’t engage with the vaccination programme. Equally, it provides a greater level of stability in protection against HPV-related disease in the event of a marked decrease in HPV vaccination rates (as seen in Ireland and Denmark in recent years).
Routine screening only exists for one of the six cancers caused by HPV; cervical cancer. Gender neutral HPV vaccination is our best opportunity to prevent cancer in decades.