23-02-2024

13,000 boys vaccinated against human papillomavirus

Since February last year, 11-year-old boys in Lithuania have been vaccinated with a human papillomavirus vaccine in accordance with the Children’s Preventive Vaccination Schedule. According to the health insurance funds, in the first year of vaccination, almost 13,500 boys have been vaccinated against the virus at the expense of the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund.

A year ago, availability of free human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for boys led to an increase in vaccination coverage for girls, who have been receiving the vaccine, paid for by health insurance funds, for nine years.

“Since the introduction of a human papillomavirus vaccine for boys in February last year, more than 19,000 girls have received at least one dose of the vaccine by February this year. This is several thousand more than the year before. In total, over 41,000 doses of a human papillomavirus vaccine have been injected into Lithuanian children within 12 months at a cost of over EUR 2 million. This shows that parents are understanding better the importance of this vaccine and are taking advantage of a free opportunity to protect their children – both girls and boys – from human papillomavirus infection and extremely serious diseases,” Lina Reinartienė, head of Centrally Procured Pharmaceuticals Division of the National Health Insurance Funds (NHIF) under the Ministry of Health, says.

HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted infection. More than 200 types of HPV are currently known, some of which pose a low risk of developing cancer and others – a high risk. HPV is responsible for 99% of cervical cancers. High-risk HPV can also cause vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers in women and penile and anal precancerous diseases and cancers in men. Studies show that the most effective protection against high-risk types of HPV is vaccination. It is recommended to start vaccination as early as possible, ideally before a person has had sex.

According to the WHO, Lithuania was one of the five countries with the highest cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in the EU in 2020. It has been shown that vaccinating both sexes results in lower rates of HPV vaccine-induced disease than vaccinating women alone. Vaccinating boys can also significantly reduce female mortality from HPV-related diseases. However, to significantly reduce the spread of the virus, around 90% of all 11-year-old girls would need to be vaccinated, and vaccination coverage of boys would need to increase significantly. This could lead to universal immunity and prevent cervical and other cancers associated with HPV infection.

“Parental fears about a human papillomavirus vaccine are usually due to lack of knowledge, so if you have any doubts, please do not hesitate to contact your family doctor. He will provide accurate, science-based information about vaccines, their safety, effectiveness and possible side-effects, and, if parents make a responsible choice, will vaccinate their children,” Dalia Miniauskienė, head of Šiauliai Territorial Health Insurance Fund, says.

The HPV vaccine purchased by the NHIF is a nine-valent vaccine, so it protects children against 9 types of HPV diseases. According to the Children’s Preventive Vaccination Schedule, HPV vaccination schedule consists of two doses of the vaccine, free of charge, at least 6 months apart. All boys and girls aged 11 years and over are eligible for the first dose of the vaccine. Younger children are not vaccinated.

(Freepic photo)

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