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Cervical cancer is a highly preventable disease through HPV vaccination or cervical cancer screening. However, it still represents an important public health problem in poor countries where access to public health services is limited and screening and treatment for the disease have not been widely implemented. The PartnERship to Contrast HPV (PERCH) aims to contribute to European efforts to improve the spread of the HPV vaccine by European citizens by addressing different aspects.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus that consists of more than 100 subtypes, of which more than 40 are sexually transmitted and can infect anogenital and oropharyngeal mucosa. At least 14 HPV types are classified as ‘high risk’ and can cause cervical cancer in women, and a fraction of other anogenital cancers and head and neck cancers in both genders. In 2020, according to data from the Global Cancer Observatory (CGO), cervical cancer (CC) was the 4th most common cancer among women worldwide. Cervical cancer is a highly preventable disease through HPV vaccination (primary prevention) and CC screening (secondary prevention) and is a treatable disease if detected promptly and properly treated. However, it still represents an important public health problem in Europe and worldwide, especially in poor countries including several Eastern European countries where access to public health services is limited and screening and treatment for the disease have not been widely implemented.
Although vaccines have been available since 2006 and is progressively introduced into national immunization plans, both introduction and coverage are yet to reach optimal levels globally and also in Europe. In order to achieve the backdrop of the 90% coverage target for HPV vaccination by 2030 set in the approved global strategy for cervical cancer elimination by the WHO, many countries require actions to improve their specific vaccination coverages. Moreover, the observed variation in the vaccination coverage between countries and within countries signals the presence of inequalities to access and information on vaccines.
The General Objective of PERCH (PartnERship to Contrast HPV) is to contribute to the implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which aims to support Member States’ efforts to extend the roll-out of routine HPV vaccination to eliminate cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV in the coming decade. PERCH starts from the analysis of the context with respect to how HPV vaccination and HPV screening are implemented and monitored in all participating countries; determinants of vaccination hesitation will then be analysed in order to increase knowledge and awareness, to target population on the benefits of the vaccine up-take; training activities will also be provided for health personnel on vaccination communication and finally before the end of the Joint Action (JA), MSs will be supported to launch large-scale human papillomavirus vaccination campaigns.
Specific objectives of PERCH include to improve:
- evidence on how HPV vaccination and HPV screening are implemented and monitored in all participating countries
- data and monitoring system on HPV vaccination and HPV screening
- HPV awareness
- knowledge and abilities for health professionals in vaccine communication.