HPV vaccine now available for all children regardless of gender, from 10 years old
Public health institute RIVM is about to kick off a new vaccination campaign. All 10-year-old children in the Netherlands will be invited to get vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which causes various forms of cancer.
The RIVM used to only offer this vaccine to girls aged 13 and older to protect them against vagina-, labia-, and cervix cancer. But more and more research show that HPV can also cause cancer in boys and men. "After advice from the Health Council, we are now starting to offer the HPV vaccination to boys. In this way, they are also protected against HPV cancer, and in addition, vaccinating both boys and girls contributes to the creation of herd immunity," said Jeanne-Marie Hament, RIVM program manager of the National Immunization Program.
As the vaccine works best before someone comes in contact with the virus, the health institute lowered the vaccination age to 10. This year and next, 12- to 18-year-olds who have not yet been vaccinated against HPV will be invited to protect themselves against the cancer-causing virus.
HPV is a highly contagious and common virus, affecting about 80 percent of people at some point in their lives. Usually, the body manages to get rid of the virus itself, but sometimes the cells remain and develop into cancer. The virus can cause cancer of the mouth, pharynx, penis, anus, vagina, labia, and cervix. Every year in the Netherlands, almost 400 men get cancer from HPV. About 80 percent of these cases can be prevented with the vaccination, according to the RIVM.
"More and more young men are being diagnosed with penile cancer. Sometimes a (partial) penile amputation is necessary to save a life. This obviously has a major impact on someone's life," said Oscar Brouwer, a urologist at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital who specializes in rare forms of cancer. "I often speak to patients who would like to travel back in time for a vaccination, but unfortunately, it is too late for them."