Collaboration among immunization programmes aims to bring Europe closer to stopping HPV

Health authorities from 7 Member States came together for an informal technical consultation on human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization on 27 June 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark. WHO/Europe organized the meeting to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience among HPV immunization programmes.

A successful start in the battle against cervical cancer

HPV is a largely sexually transmitted virus responsible for a range of diseases, including cervical cancer and genital warts. So far, 28 countries in the WHO European Region have added the HPV vaccine to their routine immunization schedules and 3 additional countries – Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova – plan to do so this year.

After 10 years of use and over 270 million doses administered globally, HPV vaccines have proved safe and effective. Transmission of the most common and dangerous HPV types is declining in countries with high coverage rates.

Despite this progress, the success of HPV immunization programmes has varied, with coverage rates in the Region ranging from below 50% to over 90%. Some countries have seen uptake of the vaccine fall due to concerns about its safety. These concerns have been dispelled by the findings of thorough investigations and ongoing vaccine monitoring throughout the world.

Sustaining or rebuilding public trust in vaccines, based on independent research findings and conclusions, is an ongoing objective for all immunization programmes.

Peer sharing to facilitate learning

WHO/Europe initiated an informal peer sharing group in October 2016 to facilitate discussion and learning among HPV immunization programmes in similar contexts in the Region. Topics of common interest include trust-building but also delivery approaches and outcomes.

A face-to-face consultation took place in June 2017 to present and discuss the following topics:

  • conclusions of the June 2017 meeting of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS);
  • findings of research in Scotland on the impact of HPV vaccination on HPV prevalence, uptake of cervical screening and rates of cervical abnormalities (in press);
  • the media perspective, and how health authorities can reach out to build knowledge and understanding in the media community; and
  • planning and progress of a campaign launched in Denmark to inform the public about HPV and to increase vaccination coverage.

Participants included representatives of national immunization programmes in Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom; representatives of the Danish Cancer Society, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, GACVS and WHO/Europe; and press and media experts.