A silent disease, which can show its consequences only years after infection: this is HPV, acronym for Human Papillomavirus, which according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), affects more than 630 million people.
In Brazil, the National Cancer Institute estimates that, between 2020 and 2022, 16,700 cases of cervical cancer may be caused by the virus, which is also a precursor of tumors in the vulva, vagina, penis and anus.
Specialist Juarez Cunha, president of the Brazilian Society of Immunizations (SBIm), warns that the only way to stop the numbers is vaccination, which unfortunately, still comes up against some prejudices.
“HPV is currently considered a vaccine that protects against cancer – we have two vaccines that protect against cancer, against Hepatitis B (liver) and HPV. Unfortunately we need to improve coverage, it is low like all vaccines”, he says.
The Brazilian HPV vaccination campaign targets girls aged 9 to 14 years and boys aged 11 to 14 years, requiring two doses for full protection.
“They [adolescentes] they end up going to the health center infrequently, sometimes they are not attended by either the pediatrician or the general practitioner, they are a little ‘loose’, without attention. That’s why we recommend vaccinating as soon as possible, still in late childhood”, guides the professional.
“Many people think that vaccinating stimulates sex life. The purpose of the vaccine is to close the door to cancer, not to open the door to sex. It is the prevention of a disease that can be very serious. We will avoid diseases that cause many deaths, mainly from women.”
In addition to young people, immunosuppressed people are also on the list of SUS beneficiaries – men up to 26 years old and women up to 45 years old. Healthy adults can also be vaccinated, but only in the private network.
“The difference in the age group between men and women can be explained: men are the main transmitters of HPV and symptoms such as genital warts, lumps or sores on the penis, anus, mouth or throat appear more quickly. In women, the evolution of the disease is slow. Cervical cancer, for example, can appear 10 to 15 years after the first contact with the HPV virus. Vaccination helps in controlling and reducing symptoms”, explains Amanda Reis, immunization manager at healthtech beep.
After vaccination, the use of condoms in sexual acts and the realization of constant preventive exams, such as pap smears, are the best ways to avoid contagion or to start treatment quickly.
The WHO’s goal is to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by 2030. According to Dr. Juarez, however, the numbers are far below the desired in Brazil.
“We have an underused vaccine that prevents cancer. We need to improve coverage, which is much, much lower. The target is around 80%. For the first dose for girls, we are closer, but for the second dose, this number is much lower. , around 50%. For boys it is well below, around 50% for the first dose and 30% for the second dose”.
Questioned, the Ministry of Health reported that it does not have vaccination data separated by year since the immunizer was included in the National Vaccination Calendar in 2014.
“When it comes to HPV vaccination coverage, Pasta clarifies that they are prepared through a cohort [estuos de cuho epidemiológico para determinar incidência da doença] from the year of implantation of this vaccine in 2014 until 2020”, says the note.
“The 2021 data are now being worked on for inclusion in the cohort. Thus, they do not represent year-to-year coverage, but the accumulated number of children and adolescents vaccinated from 2014 to date. Currently, 7,306,174 of the female population have been vaccinated with the first dose and 4,869,496 received the second dose. As for the male public, 3,551,771 were vaccinated with the first dose and 2,824,885 with dose two.”