ADDIS ABABA – One-dose Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine offers solid protection against cervical cancer, announces the experts of World Health Organization (WHO).
The recommendation comes days after WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) evaluated evidence that has emerged in the past few years that single-dose schedules provide comparable efficacy to the two or three-dose regimens.
The review concluded that a single-dose HPV vaccine “delivers solid protection against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, that is comparable to 2-dose schedules,” said the WHO, calling it “a game-changer” for the prevention of the disease.
Cervical cancer, often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, is a preventable disease often caused by sexually transmitted HPV.
It is the fourth most common type of cancer in women globally with 90% of these women living in low- and middle-income countries.
“The HPV vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of HPV serotypes 16 & 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancer,” said Dr Alejandro Cravioto, SAGE Chair.
SAGE urged all countries to introduce HPV vaccines and prioritize multi-age cohort catch up of missed and older cohorts of girls.
“These recommendations will enable more girls and women to be vaccinated and thus preventing them from having cervical cancer and all its consequences over the course of their lifetimes,” Dr. Cravioto said.
– Updated Dose Schedules –
SAGE recommends updating dose schedules for HPV to one or two-dose schedule for the primary target of girls aged 9-14; and one or two-dose schedule for young women aged 15-20; and two doses with a 6-month interval for women older than 21.
Immuno-compromised individuals, including those with HIV, should receive three doses if feasible, and if not at least two doses, says SAGE’s recommendation, adding that there is “limited evidence regarding the efficacy of a single dose in this group”.
The option for a single dose of the vaccine “is less costly, less resource intensive and easier to administer”, said the UN agency that launched a Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative in 2020 to address challenges including the inequity in vaccine access.
“This single-dose recommendation has the potential to take us faster to our goal of having 90% of girls vaccinated by the age of 15 by 2030,” said Dr Princess Simelela, WHO Assistant Director-General.
Globally, the uptake of the life-saving vaccine has been slow, and coverage in countries much lower than the 90% target. Consequently, in 2020 global coverage with 2 doses was only 13 %.
Featured Image caption: A 14-year-old girl received HPV vaccine at her school in Addis Ababa, January 2022 [Photo File/WHO]