Cervical cancer is a serious public health problem, it is the fourth most common cancer among women. It is estimated that in 2020 more than 600,000 cases were diagnosed, and 340,000 women died because of this cancer. Almost 99% of cases are related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This virus is transmitted through sexual contact and, although it usually resolves spontaneously without causing symptoms, the persistent infection can end up causing cancer.
However, this is a cancer that can be prevented by HPV vaccination and screening and can be fought as long as it is detected early and access to treatment is available. For this reason, on November 17th, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Campaign to Eliminate Cervical Cancer. The aim is to ensure that by 2030 90% of girls were vaccinated before the age of 15, that 70% of women participate in screenings at least twice in their lives, and that 90% of women diagnosed with precancerous injuries and cervical cancer can access effective treatment. These measures can turn cervical cancer into the first eliminable cancer as a public health problem.
On the way to vaccinating 90% of girls
To reach the goal of 90% of vaccinated girls by 2030, it is important to know the current situation and how vaccination plans have been managed so far.
An article led by Dr. Laia Bruni, of the IDIBELL and ICO Cancer Prevention Program, and published in the journal Preventive Medicine, points out that there are two key factors to consider when we analyze the status of vaccinations globally: the countries that have incorporated the HPV vaccine in their vaccination plans, and the proportion of girls who have been vaccinated in these countries.
The article states that more than half of the countries have started HPV vaccination plans. Specifically, 107 of the 194 countries have done so, representing 55%.
The coverage achieved once the vaccine has been introduced into the calendar is more discreet. Only 6% of countries have already reached the target of vaccinating 90% of girls, 21% of countries have achieved vaccination coverage of more than 75%, and 40% of countries have a coverage of 50% or lower.
Globally, 15% of girls have been vaccinated. Although it may seem a discreet number, countries with a high population, such as India, China, or Nigeria, have not started vaccination, which greatly reduces the overall percentage. “It will not be easy, and there are many challenges, both globally, with the production and supply of vaccines, and locally, for vaccine funding or reluctance. But we know that reaching 90% coverage of vaccines vaccination is possible, five countries have already achieved it “, declares Dr. Bruni.
“We know that reaching 90% coverage of vaccines vaccination is possible, five countries have already achieved it” Dr. Laia Bruni
If we look at our region, we see that more than 80% of Catalan girls have been vaccinated, and in Spain, this figure exceeds 70%.
Dra. Laia Bruni works with the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biological Medicines to prepare HPV vaccination coverage annually. This collaboration began in 2018 when the different methods and indicators were agreed to monitor vaccination coverage worldwide. Coverage of HPV vaccination programs is one of the main indicators for monitoring global progress toward the elimination of cervical cancer.
International HPV Awareness Day: Information to Fight Cancer
In 2018, March 4 was established as the International Day for HPV Awareness. This day’s commemoration is part of the International Papillomavirus Society’s commitment to increasing global understanding of the virus and how it affects us.
HPV can be prevented and combated, so in most cases we can avoid related cancers. The motto of International HPV Awareness Day 2021 is “HPV: a virus we all can beat” and aims to empower people with the information they need to make informed health decisions.
Everyone can be affected by HPV, and everyone can do something to reduce the risk by simply sharing information and provoking conversation about HPV. Stopping HPV, saving lives, and raising awareness and education are the first important steps toward prevention.
The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).