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Less than half of all girls in some Finnish towns get HPV vaccine

National vaccination registry data show 90 percent coverage in some areas, but less than 50 percent in other parts of Finland.

Lasta rokotetaan.
The HPV vaccine is administered as a series of injections in the shoulder area. Image: AOP

There are significant regional discrepancies in the number of young girls receiving vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV), according to the latest official data released by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The HPV vaccine was introduced into the national vaccination programme in 2013, and the shot is currently only administered to girls born in 2006.

Coverage is especially weak in the Swedish-speaking coastal area of Ostrobothnia, where less than half of girls eligible to receive the vaccine in the cities of Raahe, Pori and Jakobstad have done so.

This contrasts greatly with the situation in other parts of the country, with a number of areas reporting that nine out of ten girls have received the HPV vaccine, including the municipalities of Naantali and Hanko in the south-west, Siilinjärvi in the east, and Inari in the north.

Nationally the average is 70 percent of 12-13 year old girls that have been vaccinated against HPV.

"Not advisable to postpone"

In a press release, Tuija Leino, Chief Medical Officer of THL, expressed surprise that the vaccination rate was comparatively low in certain areas.

“In Sweden, the coverage of HPV vaccination is 85 percent nationwide. It is therefore difficult to understand why almost one third of Finnish girls 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. Therefore, it is not advisable to postpone taking it, ” Leino said.

Within the larger urban areas, vaccination coverage is highest in Vantaa, at 75 percent, with Helsinki very close behind on 74 percent. Of the bigger cities, Oulu had the lowest vaccination coverage with about 65 percent of girls in the age group receiving the shot.

The Ministry of Finance included a proposal in the 2020 budget that young boys would also be vaccinated against HPV, starting from autumn next year. Parliament will decide on the new budget in December.

HPV is known to cause cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, head and neck area.

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