Age limit for HPV vaccine extended temporarily
The age for administering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been extended, said the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) in a press release on Tuesday.
The first of the series of vaccinations can now be given up to the time that a young person has reached the age of 18 years. The extension is temporary, and it is in force through the end of the 2022–2023 school year.
“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some municipalities have not been able to carry out all health check-ups and vaccinations. With this temporary measure, we want to ensure that all children and young people have an equal opportunity to get vaccine protection against cancers caused by papilloma viruses”, said THL Chief Specialist Mia Kontio.
“Although the coronavirus situation was the reason that the vaccination period was extended, the reason a young person’s protection against HPV does is inadequate not matter. The series of vaccinations can also begin based on individual consideration if there is some other reason why it has not been started”, said THL Head Physician Ulpu Elonsalo.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes many different types of cancers of the head and neck area, as well as the anus, penis, cervix, vagina, and vulva.
HPV is spread through contact with the skin and through sexual contact. About 80 percent of people are infected at some time in their lives by HPV, exposing them to the risk of serious illness.
The HPV vaccine is the best way to protect against an infection. It prevents about 90 percent of cases of cervical cancer and up to 95 percent of the precursors of cervical cancer caused by the two most common types of HPV. It is these two types that also cause the majority of the cancers.
The HPV vaccine is part of the Finnish national vaccination programme, and it is offered to all children and young people. Boys HPV vaccinations were added to the vaccination programme in the autumn of 2020. The series of vaccinations usually comprises two doses administered when a child is in the fifth and sixth grades of primary school.
If the HPV vaccinations start when a young person has turned 15 years of age, three doses are needed. The best protection comes when the vaccine is administered at as early an age as possible.
Municipalities are responsible for arranging HPV vaccinations. If the series of vaccinations has not been completed in the upper grades, the municipality must see to it that the young person is given the possibility to get the missing vaccines.
It is nevertheless important for families and young people themselves to make sure that inadequate vaccine coverage is replenished.