A single dose of HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer
In a new position paper released last week, the WHO updated its recommendations. The paper indicates that a single-dose schedule, called an unlicensed alternative single-dose schedule, may provide comparable efficacy and durability of protection to a two-dose regimen.
According to the UN world health agency, optimizing the HPV vaccination schedule should improve access to the vaccine. This should offer countries the opportunity to increase the number of girls who can be vaccinated.
The WHO now recommends a one- or two-dose device for girls aged 9-14. A one- or two-dose regimen is also recommended for girls and women aged 15 to 20. For women over 21, two doses are recommended with an interval of 6 months.
A drop in vaccination coverage between 2019 and 2021
This new recommendation would also lighten the burden of “the often complicated and expensive follow-up necessary” to complete the series of vaccinations. With this update, WHO hopes that countries will strengthen their HPV vaccination programs, reversing the decline in vaccination coverage.
The recommendation for a single-dose HPV vaccination schedule was originally made last April by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on vaccination. This position comes at the right time in a context of “very worrying decline in HPV vaccination coverage”.
Between 2019 and 2021, coverage of the first dose of HPV vaccination dropped from 25% to 15%. This means that 3.5 million more girls missed vaccination in 2021 compared to 2019.
The summary document stresses the importance of giving priority to vaccinating people who are immunocompromised or living with HIV. Immunocompromised people should receive at least two doses and if possible three doses.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common in women
The primary target for vaccination is girls aged 9 to 14, before the onset of sexual activity. Vaccination of secondary targets such as older boys and women is recommended when possible and affordable.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women, and more than 95% of cervical cancers are caused by sexually transmitted HPV. Two types of human papillomavirus (types 16 and 18) cause nearly 50% of high-grade precancerous lesions of the cervix.
This cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage and treated quickly. To fight against cancer of the cervix in a global way, the WHO recommends setting up primary prevention (vaccination against HPV), secondary prevention (screening and treatment of precancerous lesions), tertiary prevention (diagnosis and treatment of invasive cervical cancer) and palliative care.
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