Cervical cancer affects more than 3,000 women in France every year and causes approximately 1,100 deaths. It should, however, be on the way out: It is the only cancer for which there is a screening test (…) and a vaccine “, recalled the National Institute for the Fight against Cancer (INCa), in its anticancer plan 2014-2019, which aimed, at the time, for a vaccination coverage of 60% among girls. The results are, however, disappointing. While the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) – responsible for 70% of cervical cancers – has been available since 2006, the complete vaccination schedule for 16-year-old girls is 37.4% in 2021, according to Public Health France.
“It is far from satisfactory and it is a failure compared to other European countries, but we are seeing a real increase”, tempers Doctor Jean-Baptiste Méric, medical oncologist and director of the public health and care center at INCa. In 2015, the rate was 13.5%.
“We can’t get people to get vaccinated”, observes Professor Xavier Carcopino, head of the gynecology-obstetrics department at the Nord hospital in Marseille and vice-president of the French Society of Colposcopy and Cervicovaginal Pathology. Thus, France is one of the European countries with the lowest rates of HPV vaccination: England, Portugal and Sweden have succeeded in vaccinating respectively 85%, 76% and 83% of their target population. .
“ It is all the more hopeless as we have more than fifteen years of hindsight”, emphasizes Professor Carcopino. Numerous studies have confirmed in the past a marked reduction in HPV infections and precancerous lesions thanks to vaccination. More recently, its impact on the decline of cervical cancer has been demonstrated: an open population study between 2006 and 2017 involving more than 1.6 million Swedish women aged 10 to 30 has established that vaccination against -HPV reduced the risk of developing invasive cancer by 88% in women vaccinated before the age of 17.
For many professionals, the disappearance of the school vaccination policy is largely responsible for these low rates. Countries with the highest vaccination coverage have introduced school vaccination programs. Sweden, for example, offered it free of charge from 2012 for girls aged 10 to 12. In 2021, 84% of under-16s received at least one dose of HPV vaccine.
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