The majority of children receive HPV vaccinations in primary school as recommended – the vaccination coverage is higher in girls than boys

Publication date 29.11.2023 8.35 | Published in English on 11.12.2023 at 15.20
Press release

HPV (human papillomavirus) causes several different cancers in both women and men. The HPV vaccine is the best way to protect against the infection. In Finland, 80 percent of girls and 71 percent of boys who were born in 2010 have received the HPV vaccine. The information behind the figures is from the Finnish National Vaccination Register.

In Finland, girls have been getting HPV vaccinations since 2013 and boys since 2020 which at least partly explains the differences in vaccine coverage for boys and girls.

The HPV vaccine is part of the national vaccination programme and is free of charge. The vaccination series consists of two doses. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommends that vaccinations be administered in grades 5 and 6. However, if the pupil has not received the vaccination in primary school, the vaccination series can be started or supplemented in lower or upper secondary school.

"The HPV vaccine is an effective way to prevent cancers caused by papillomaviruses. The vaccine provides the best protection when taken early enough. So, it should not be unnecessarily postponed ,” says Anniina Virkku, Medical Specialist at THL.  

Few vaccinations have been administered after comprehensive school so far
In the age group born in 2007 who ended comprehensive school in 2023, 84% of girls but only 68% of boys had been vaccinated against HPV. Vaccinations can still be administered in upper secondary school and vocational school if they have not been administered during comprehensive school for some reason. 

"So far, few new vaccination series have been started after comprehensive school. For example, the vaccination coverage of both girls and boys in the age group born in 2006 has increased by less than one percentage point over the past year,” Virkku says. 

Vaccine effectively prevents many different cancers 

HPV vaccinations effectively prevent cancers caused by papillomaviruses. For women, the most common cancer caused by the papillomavirus is cervical cancer and for men, tonsil cancer. Papillomaviruses also cause cancers of the pharynx, anus, penis, vagina and vulva. 

Papillomaviruses are spread via skin, and sexual contact. About 80 percent of people get a papillomavirus during their lifetime that exposes them to a serious illness.

THL monitors the coverage of HPV vaccinations with the help of the Finnish National Vaccination Register. Because of shortcomings linked with vaccination records and transfer of data, actual vaccination coverage rates can be higher than those in the National Vaccination Register. In municipalities with low birth rates, a small number of unvaccinated children, or missing information on a vaccination can significantly reduce coverage. THL works together with wellbeing service counties and software suppliers to make sure that the vaccination coverage figures are as accurate as possible.

More information

Map showing HPV vaccination coverage (THL)

HPV vaccine (THL)

Anniina Virkku
Medical Specialist
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL
[email protected]

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