A new vaccine campaign targeting a common sexually transmitted infection will begin in September, French president Emmanuel Macron has announced.
The vaccine – free but not compulsory -- will be offered to 12- and 13-year-olds.
It aims to eradicate HPV, a group of viruses which cause over 6,000 new cancer cases in France each year, according to Santé publique France.
Around 80 to 90% of the general population come in contact with the virus throughout their lives however generally individuals tend to eliminate it naturally.
HPV spreads extremely easily, “almost exclusively via sexual relations (with or without penetration),” the website of France’s health insurance scheme states.
While most cases are benign, some can lead to cancer.
According to a report from France’s Institut national du cancer, HPV is responsible in France each year for 2,900 cases of cervical cancer, 1,500 ear, nose and throat cancers, 1,500 anal cancers, 200 vulvar or vaginal cancers and around 100 penile cancers.
According to the World Health Organization, these cancers could be completely eradicated via testing and vaccination.
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HPV vaccination is currently recommended in France for girls and boys aged 11 to 14 years old. It is also available as a “catch-up” vaccine until the age of 19 and for men who have intimate relations with other men until the age of 26.
At the end of 2021, 45.8% of girls in France aged 15 had received the HPV vaccine, and only 7% of boys the same age. France’s 2021-2030 ten-year cancer plan is aiming for coverage to reach 80% within the next seven years.
France lags behind its European neighbours when it comes to HPV vaccine coverage, with coverage at 50% in 20 European countries in 2020. In Denmark, coverage is 85% among both girls and boys.
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