Uptake of cervical cancer vaccines in many European countries is falling short of expectations, says the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and it's calling on countries with poor coverage to increase their vaccination campaigns.
The EU agency, which was set up in 2005 to provide support and advice on the treatment of infectious diseases in Europe, said that since the introduction of vaccination programmes in 19 European countries over the past four years, only two had vaccination coverage rates above 80 per cent for their target age range of those that reported such data.
Countries to perform particularly poorly in administering the three doses to its recommended age group include Luxembourg, with 17 per cent coverage, France with 24 per cent and Slovenia with 55 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, Portugal managed 84 per cent coverage, the UK had 80 per cent and Denmark had 79 per cent in their efforts to immunise girls from the human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer.
The ECDC suggested that some deterring factors for low uptake of the vaccine included the high cost of the two vaccines available, GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix and Merck & Co's Gardarix, as well as the three-dose regime.
Also mentioned as a problem was parental acceptance of the vaccine, with girls requiring permission to be vaccinated due to their young age.
This has led to an increased push from the ECDC to bolster countries' vaccination efforts, and it advises that all girls in Europe should have the cervical cancer vaccine by the age of 14 in a new update to its HPV vaccine guidance.
ECDC director Marc Sprenger said: “We, public health authorities, frontline healthcare workers and parents alike, have a shared responsibility to protect thousands of women from cervical cancer.
“We need to work together to ensure that all girls between 10 and 14 years of age are vaccinated. European countries may need to examine why HPV vaccination coverage rates in their countries are not higher and strengthen their vaccination campaigns accordingly.”
The updated guidance also address the issue of boys receiving the HPV vaccine, with the ECDC commenting that, despite similar efficacy efforts for the quadrivalent HPV vaccine as demonstrated in girls, the personal benefit of the vaccine for men in terms of cancer prevention is very low.
This would likely lead to low vaccination coverage, meaning a vaccination regime for to protect against HPV in boys would not be a cost-effective option.