Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

WHO working to maximize benefits for adolescents from the HPV vaccine

2 March 2009

Adolescents typically have insufficient contact with health services. Since new vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV) target adolescent girls, their introduction provides an opportunity for adolescents to engage more with health services. WHO and UNFPA are working together to link cervical cancer prevention with immunization, adolescent health and education. Within WHO, this work is being led jointly by the Departments of Child and Adolescent Health and Development (CAH), Reproductive Health and Research (RHR), Immunizations, Vaccines and Biologicals (IVB), and Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion (CHP).

HPV is estimated to cause about half a million cases of cervical cancer every year, and is the leading cause of death from cancer for women in the developing world. This particular effort focuses on: 1) developing an appropriate, evidence-based set of complementary adolescent-specific interventions to be delivered as an "HPV Plus" package; and 2) developing field research to assess the feasibility, acceptability, cost and means of delivering the package of interventions with the HPV vaccine.

As part of step one described above, CAH has reviewed the scientific evidence in support of effective health interventions for delivery in concert with HPV vaccines. A generic menu of “Plus Package” interventions for adolescents was identified, and categorized into a) information, b) screening, c) commodities, and d) referral.

The steps involved in part two of the process include consultation with stakeholders in countries to establish the viability of the adolescent “Plus Package” and establish consensus on a multi-site research protocol.

In March 2009, a meeting was held in Mexico with representatives of Ministries of Health and key stakeholders from Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru to discuss and review the adolescent package, and develop the multi-country research design.

During the meeting in Mexico, the four participating countries adopted and adapted the identified menu of adolescent interventions to their country situation. They also decided on a vaccine delivery strategy that includes the adolescent package. Participants also agreed that the interventions should complement existing cervical cancer prevention efforts.

In each country, a national steering committee will be established by the Ministry of Health which will include the Ministry of Education, prominent research institutions, and scientific experts in relevant areas to develop and implement the study.