Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

WHO issues position on inclusion of human papillomavirus vaccines in routine immunization programmes

9 April 2009

WHO/P. Virot

WHO recommended today — in a position paper published in the Weekly Epidemiological Record — routine vaccination of young adolescent girls to protect again human papillovirus (or HPV), which causes cervical cancer, in all countries where the prevention of cervical cancer and/or other HPV-related diseases is a public health priority, vaccine introduction is programmatically feasible, sustainable financing can be secured, and the cost-effectiveness of vaccination strategies in the country or region has been duly considered.

Use of the two HPV vaccines marketed internationally should be introduced as part of a coordinated strategy to prevent cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases. This strategy should include education about reducing behaviours that increase the risk of disease, cervical screening, and diagnosis and treatment of precancerous lesions and cancer.

Cervical cancer is responsible for a quarter of a million deaths and about 500 000 new cases each year. It is the leading cause of cancer among women in developing countries, and the second cause of cancer in women worldwide. Most cervical cancer cases occur in women aged over 40, an age when women maximize their contributions to families, economies and communities.