Up to 70% of Finnish high school girls vaccinated against HPV

The vaccine is only given to girls at present, but the government has made a budget provision to start vaccinating boys from 2020.

File picture / Credit: THL

Up to 70% of Finnish high school girls have been vaccinated against the human papilloma virus or HPV, a common virus that can cause several different cancers.

However, coverage varies around the country according to the latest figures released on Monday by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL.

HPV is part of a national vaccination programme and given to girls in fifth grade.

In Finland’s main cities the highest vaccination coverage is in Vantaa where 75% of girls born in 2006 have received the HPV vaccine. Coverage in Helsinki is 74%; in Espoo 73% and Tampere 70%.

Among major cities the lowest coverage is in Oulu where just 65% of girls in the age group have received the vaccination.

Experts say there’s no medical or scientific reason for girls not to get the vaccine.

“In Sweden, HPV vaccination coverage is 85% nationwide” says Tuija Leino, Chief Medical Officer at THL.

“It is difficult to understand why almost one third of us do not take the vaccine. According to research the vaccine is safe and provides the best and longest protection against cancer when taken early enough. It is not advisable to delay getting the vaccine” she adds.

High coverage vs low coverage 

There are several places where 90% of the girls have received the HPV vaccine, including Naantali, Vesilahti, Siilinjärvi, Inari and Hanko.

More than 80% of girls have been vaccinated too in Kauniainen, Inkoo and Kirkkonummi; as well as Loimaa, Somero and Valkeakoski; Kuopio, Lapinlahti and Sulkava.

However the lowest rates of vaccination are found in coastal Ostrobothnia with less than half the girls born in 2006 receiving the vaccination in Raahe, Pori and Pietarsaari.

The HPV vaccine became part of Finland’s national vaccine programme in 2013. The vaccination is given in two doses and can prevent a variety of cancers such as oral cancers, as well as in the anus, penis, cervix, vagina and vulva.

Currently only girls are given the HPV vaccine but the government has made a budget proposal to also start vaccinating boys from 2020.