The launch of a generalised vaccination campaign against human papillomavirus (HPV) in middle schools from 5th grade will start in September, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday.
The vaccination will be free and offered to both girls and boys. “This helps prevent many cancers,” said Macron in front of students at a French middle school in the southwest, alongside Health Minister François Braun and Education Minister Pap Ndiaye.
HPV infections are the cause of precancerous lesions of the cervix and 6,000 new cases of cancer in men and women each year.
Among these cancers, the most common is cervical cancer (2,900 cases per year), which causes over 1,000 deaths per year, but there are also cancers of the ENT sphere (1,500), anal cancers (1,500), and cancers of the penis, vagina or vulva.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancers caused by HPV are completely preventable through screening and vaccination.
Vaccine coverage in France is currently quite low, with 37% of girls and 9% of boys already being vaccinated despite the 10-year cancer control strategy 2021-2030 aiming at an 80% coverage rate within seven years.
Vaccination is recommended for adolescents between the ages of 11 and 14 and up to 19 years of age for catch-up vaccination. It is also available up to age 26 for men who have sex with men (MSM).
In the UK, for example, reduced precancerous lesions and cervical cancer by nearly 90% among the first cohorts to receive the vaccine; data provided by the WHO reads.
Belgium, Albania, and Luxembourg, amongst others, have all rolled out state HPV vaccination programmes.
In 2022, the EU launched a new Joint Action on HPV Vaccination as a part of its Europe Beating Cancer Plan. It aims to vaccinate 90% of girls against HPV by the age of 15 and will support an increase the the vaccination of boys.
(Clara Bauer-Babef | EURACTIV.fr)