On the occasion of World Awareness Day around human papillomavirus (HPV)-induced diseases, Sabrina le Bars, co-founder and president of the Corasso patient association, talks to us about the importance of increasing vaccination coverage in young people to prevent cancer.
- The purpose of the anti-HPV vaccine is to prevent infections by the most harmful strains of papillomavirus in order to limit or even avoid the risk of cancer (cervical, ENT sphere, anus, etc.).
- France lags behind its European neighbors on HPV vaccination, with only 37% of girls and 9% of boys vaccinated.
- According to Sabrina Le Bars, this is explained by a late implementation of this vaccination (2007 for girls and 2020 for boys), combined with a lack of communication on the subject.
In France, the vaccination rate against the human papillomavirus is only 37% among girls and 9% among boys. However, this virus is responsible each year for approximately 6,000 new cases of cancer, in particular of the cervix (nearly 3,000), anus, vagina, penis, or even the ENT sphere (approximately 1,600 in humans).
Papillomavirus: “we were slow to set up vaccination”
For Sabrina Le Bars, co-founder and president of the patient association Corasso, several factors explain France’s delay compared to other European countries, such as our Spanish neighbors or even Portugal and the United Kingdom, where coverage exceeds 70%. “Already, we have been slow to implement vaccination”, she explains to us. “There is also a problem at the level of information for general practitioners in paediatrics. And finally, we encounter a lot of difficulties related to a French specificity which is the apprehension towards vaccination. It is also something that is difficult to explain because it has been more than a century that vaccination has saved millions of lives! And yet, some people who are firmly convinced that vaccination is dangerous give counter-information and sow doubt and confusion in the least informed people by giving contradictory arguments that sow fear.”, laments Sabrina Le Bars.
HPV: 2 doses of vaccine for girls and boys aged 11 to 14
The HPV vaccine has been recommended since 2007 by the Haute Autorité de Santé for girls, at the rate of two doses for those aged 11 to 14 and three doses for others up to 19 years of age. This vaccination was only extended to boys in 2020, according to the same vaccination schedule. A measure taken too late according to the president of Corasso, who recalls that “protecting the boys is also protecting the girls”… but not only!
“Men are also affected by HPV-related diseases such as recurrent respiratory papillomatosis and several types of cancer. We talk a lot about cancer of the cervix, but this virus can also cause cancers of the anus, the penis and the ENT sphere… which can also affect men. Cancers of the ENT sphere are particularly violent because there is no smear from the mouth to know if there is a papillomavirus or not. The lesions caused are very commonplace and can begin with tasks or even difficulty speaking. The people affected are often young and neither they nor the general caregivers necessarily make a link with cancer… As a result, in 70% of cases the diagnosis is late, and therefore in 70% of cases we have very debilitating surgeries because living without a language is to live without being able to eat or to be able to speak.”
“We must offer a catch-up for those who have not been vaccinated” because of Covid-19
Last Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced the implementation of a vaccination campaign from the start of the 2023 school year for 5th graders with “presumed consent”, during a trip to a college in Charente-Maritime. “This is one of the things we recommended so we are delighted with this news!”, exclaims Sabrina Le Bras before adding that “it’s not sufficient”, in particular because of the delays in vaccination among young people during the health crisis. “There has been a whole generation that has not yet benefited from the vaccine. It is therefore necessary to offer a catch-up for those who have not been vaccinated.”
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