Vaccination of boys against HPV (human papillomavirus) has started in Finland. The HPV vaccination has been offered to girls since 2013; now boys can also get vaccinated free of charge as part of the national vaccination programme.
According to information released by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the vaccine is offered to all 5th and 6th graders. During school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, vaccines will also be offered to all boys in grades 7-9.
THL says vaccines will be provided "to protect as many young people as possible from cancer caused by papillomaviruses."
"Papillomaviruses cause cancer in the head and neck, penis and anus, and female genitalia, just to name a few. The most common one in women is cervical cancer and in men the tonsil cancer,” says Senior Researcher Heini Salo.
Easy to catch virus
According to THL, the papillomavirus is "very easy to catch." Without vaccinations, at some point in their lives - mostly when they are still young - about eight out of ten people catch an infection that could lead to a serious disease. A small number of infections lead to cancer, the health agency says.
"It is important that every young person is given personal protection against carcinogenic papillomaviruses because it is impossible to know in advance whose papillomavirus infection will develop into a cancer," says Salo.
"In the future, fewer people will become ill or die from cancers caused by papillomaviruses. This helps people avoid rough cancer treatments,“ this expert added.
No mention of side effects
THL does not mention in its press release the possibility of adverse reactions or unwanted side effects to the vaccine, a matter that caused concern and significant debate in some countries such as Japan (whose Ministry of Health even stopped promoting HPV vaccination in 2013) and United Kingdom a few years ago. The latter country, however, did not take special measures.
For the Finnish health agency, "the HPV vaccine is the safest way to protect people against early stages of cancer and cancer caused by papillomaviruses."
"The national vaccination programme uses the Cervarix vaccine which provides excellent protection against the papillomaviruses that most likely cause cancer," THL emphasizes.
According to the health agency, the role of papillomaviruses in causing different cancers varies. "By vaccinating both girls and boys, nearly 300 cases of cancer can be prevented in Finland every year. About one third of these are cancers that affect men."
Under 15-year-olds need a series of two doses, and people 15 years and older require three doses.