EU pushes for higher uptake of cancer-preventing vaccines

The European Commission is recommending measures EU countries should adopt to increase the uptake of two vaccines that prevent viral infections that can cause cancer, it has said.

The two vaccines are against the human papillomaviruses (HPV) that can cause many cancers, including cervical cancer, and against hepatitis B (HBV), which can lead to liver cancer.

As part of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the European Union wants member countries to reach HPV vaccination of 90% for girls by 2030 and significantly increase the rate for boys.

“Many member states are well below 50% HPV vaccination coverage for girls with limited data available for boys and young adults,” the Commission statement said, adding it was as low as 1% in some countries.

To achieve this rate, the EU recommends countries provide free or fully reimbursable vaccination, set targets for boys and improve communication and access.

The HPV vaccines authorised in the EU are made by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co.

The late Laura Brennan, who was one of Ireland’s leading patient advocates and HPV vaccine campaigners, died from cervical cancer in March 2019. She was 26-years-old.

Ms Brennan’s campaigning led to a surge in the number of young women getting the HPV vaccine.

Laura Brennan died from cervical cancer at the age of 26

The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading a global initiative to eliminate cervical cancer, which it defines as reducing annual cases to that figure of 4 per 100,000 women per year.

Late last year, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland was on target to reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer to 4 per 100,000 women by 2040.

There are currently around 11 cases per 100,000 women in Ireland.

WHO targets to be achieved by 2030 include 90% of girls being fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15.

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