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Addressing inequities in cancer prevention – calling for HPV vaccination for boys & girls #HPVAware

News item

Tuesday 25 Apr 2017

Nessa Childers MEP says politicians can provide leadership in helping to address ‘fake news’ in vaccine safety. “Politicians have to be part of the solution” she said.

Ms Childers was speaking at a seminar she co-hosted with Karin Kadenbach MEP, in partnership with the HPV Coalition. Held in the European Parliament today to discuss why we need to make the HPV vaccine available to both boys and girls. Speakers included Dr. Robert O’Connor of the Irish Cancer Society.


Speech delivered by Nessa Childers MEP – 25 April 2017

“On behalf of Karin and myself, I would like to thank everybody for what I think was a very fruitful meeting.

It is clear that the implementation of vaccination against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) for boys and girls is an example of a policy which can significantly contribute to tackle health inequalities and the rising burden of cancer.

We have heard today about the persistence of wide inequalities between EU citizens in access to prevention from HPV-related cancers and diseases. This despite the existence HPV vaccination as a means of primary prevention.

While HPV causes multiple cancers in both sexes, vaccination is only accessible to girls in the vast majority of European countries, hampering control of HPV-related cancers in both sexes in Europe.

As explained today, HPV is equally common in both men and women and does not only cause cervical cancer.

It is also responsible for a broad range of cancers and diseases affecting both genders. This is something we must not disregard.

Denying males the benefits of HPV vaccination is discriminatory. Men should have an equal access to protection from preventable diseases.

Failure to do this also leaves a substantial number of Europeans at risk of developing disease and continuing to spread the virus.

It is clear to me that comprehensive HPV vaccination programs must play a central role in cancer prevention plans, as the most effective strategy to reduce inequality in access to prevention between boys and girls.

We have the means to protect individuals exposed to unvaccinated partners and to reduce and eliminate preventable HPV-related cancers in Europe.

It is time to increase political will for universal HPV vaccination in all EU Member States.

The European Union should push for, but also support, Member State policies that ensure equal access to this primary means of prevention for all citizens.

We can protect our population from the serious and largely preventable health risks posed by HPV and HPV-related conditions.

Success in controlling HPV-related cancers and diseases, will mean a healthier population, reduced gender and social health inequalities and better quality of life for future generations.

This is why we endorse the recommendations contained in the call for action:

First and foremost we wish to see implementing universal HPV routine vaccination and expanding coverage in both sexes;

Universal HPV vaccination must be seen as priority in national cancer control policies and objectives, also beyond cervical cancer, so as to target other HPV-related cancers and diseases in both genders, with a global HPV prevention approach;

We need to raise awareness, and improve knowledge of, HPV vaccination among the general population and healthcare professionals, as an effective and safe strategy to prevent and control HPV-related cancers in both genders;

We should set and monitor EU coverage targets for HPV vaccination in girls and boys;

A stakeholders group at European level should be established to share evidence, best practice and policy recommendations on HPV prevention and vaccination programmes.

Finally, we would like to invite the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to consider formally recommending vaccinating programs in boys.

I would like to conclude, ladies and gentlemen, that as elected representatives of the EU citizens it is our duty to collaborate and find ways to minimize the impact and further spread of diseases such as HPV.

The health of future generations has much to gain from means prevention within our reach.

I am confident that conclusions drawn today, in particular the recommendations paper we launched, are a strong contribution to policy making in this regard and should be acted upon by European and national policymakers.

We urge European institutions and all Member States to work together to rapidly and effectively implement these learnings so that all European citizens receive the protection that they deserve, regardless of their nationality, sex or social background.

I thank you very much for your attention.”

 Click here for a copy of the programme and full agenda


Note to editors


Ireland introduced HPV vaccination in 2008, delivered via school health services, with actual effective coverage unknown. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee recommended permissive use for males in 2014, with a programme for men who have sex with men introduced last year.

EU policy and goals

The EU’s health strategy considers a 70% reduction in cancer mortality inequalities among Member States, by 2020, to be a feasible target. In 2014, the EU Council committed to intensifying cancer prevention through screening and vaccination. The European Code against Cancer includes HPV vaccination as a key cancer reduction.

The event was sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme, @HPVCoalition and Rhode Public Policy