The Public Health Commission has approved this Thursday to vaccinate children against the human papillomavirus. This closes a debate of several years on the advisability of vaccinating younger men against this disease or not. “The two-dose vaccination schedule will be applicable to both 12-year-old boys and girls with a minimum interval of six months. The autonomous communities will incorporate it before the end of 2024”, the Ministry of Health reported in a brief statement.
Andalusia will administer the papilloma vaccine in 12-year-old children from 2023
In 2007, Health recommended the injection of the human papillomavirus vaccine in girls from 12 years of age. “There will no longer be a gender gap around this vaccine and it will help reduce cervical cancer in women, which had already been reduced with the exclusive vaccination of girls,” explains Inmaculada Cuesta, member of the Vaccines Conference of the Ministry of Health.
“By vaccinating boys, we prevent transmission of papillomavirus and, therefore, cancer in girls. But it also protects against cancer of the oropharynx, which must be assessed based on the habit of different sexual practices”, argues Cuesta, indicating at the same time that the vaccine prevents anal cancer and genital warts.
In Spain, until now, the vaccine was included in the vaccination calendar of all the autonomous communities and was administered free of charge to girls from the age of 12, the age prior to the start of sexual relations, which is the route of transmission of this virus. In the case of children, the injection was outside the official immunization program except in some communities, although more and more voices, including the WHO, requested inclusion.
Catalonia was the first community to announce in May that it would also start vaccinating boys without waiting for the criteria of the presentation or the Commission, although in the end it was Galicia that began to do so on September 15, two weeks before the Valencian Community, which began on October 1. Andalusia had advanced this week that it was going to incorporate the vaccine in January 2023.
Madrid, for its part, had also announced this week the acquisition of 160,000 more vaccines against HPV for children, pending the update of the common vaccination schedule of the National Health System by the Ministry.
According to Health data, Spain has an average prevalence of HPV infection in women of 14.3%, which reaches 29% in young women between 18 and 25 years of age. “High-risk genotype 16 and low-risk genotypes 6 and 11 are the most frequent in our country,” indicates the Ministry on its website. Since 2007, the vaccine has been recommended in adolescent women and, since 2018, in the population of both sexes “with risk conditions”.
Worldwide, the incorporation of this vaccine is very uneven, especially in the poorest countries, the WHO recalled in April. The main objective of the vaccine is to protect women from cervical cancer.