vaccination of adolescent girls is progressing, but remains limited and unequal

The vaccination coverage of young girls remains “far from the 60% target” of the 2014-2019 cancer plan, according to a study by Public Health France.

Vaccination of adolescent girls against papillomavirus infections, linked to the appearance of several cancers, has known “an upgrade” in 2021, but remains at “moderate levels” especially among the most disadvantaged, according to a study by Public Health France.

In mainland France, the vaccination coverage of adolescent girls aged 15 to 18 against these infections, particularly related to cancer of the uterus, is estimated at 43.6%, indicates the agency in its weekly epidemiological bulletin, published Tuesday, November 29. Public Health France used data from “health barometers” in mainland France and in the Overseas Territories, whose participants (24,514 in mainland France, more than 6,000 in the Overseas Territories) were surveyed by telephone by Ipsos between February and December 2021.

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Vaccination therefore has a “progress” in this age group, according to the health agency. Previous data, established differently, estimated the proportion of 15-year-old girls vaccinated at 29.4% in 2018 and 45.8% in 2021. The vaccination coverage of young girls against these infections remains, however, “moderate in France and far from the 60% target” of the 2014-2019 cancer plan, underlines SPF. It also appears to be among the lowest in Europe, while countries such as Finland, Hungary, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and Sweden have more than 70% of adolescent girls vaccinated.

Another observation: the vaccination of adolescent girls against HPV reflects certain inequalities. Geographically, vaccination coverage is particularly low in overseas territories (13.8% in Guadeloupe, 17.2% in Martinique, 22.6% in Guyana, 24.0% in Reunion). Social criteria also come into play. The higher the parents’ income, the more adolescent girls are vaccinated. For girls with one or more unemployed parents, vaccination coverage is “particularly weak”. In mainland France, more than 13% of parents of teenage girls have not heard of HPV vaccination, a fairly stable percentage. But, in the Outremers, ignorance is higher.

The fear of the vaccine

For non-vaccination, fear of side effects and fear of the vaccine are the main reasons cited by parents. In some cases, the doctor would not have proposed, or would even have advised against this injection. Vaccination against HPV infections has been recommended in France for girls since 2007, for boys since 2021. “The organization of vaccination by school medicine could make it possible to increase vaccination coverage”as in other countries, according to SPF.

The Minister of Health, François Braun, has repeatedly expressed the desire to increase vaccination against human papillomavirus infections.

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