Slovenia plays an active role in joint European efforts to increase HPV vaccination

As of 1 November 2022, a new European partnership to increase HPV vaccination in Europe was launched under the umbrella of the Partnership to contrast HPV – project PERCH, involving 18 European countries, including Slovenia. Italy is the project's main coordinator, and the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana is working with the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) on this project. The Joint Action (JA) project is run under the umbrella of the European Commission. 

Despite cervical cancer being the most preventable cancer, it is still the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide and among the top cancers in younger women. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already launched a global strategy to end cervical cancer in 2020, with three targets: 70% of women are screened with a high-performance test by 35 years of age and again by 45 years of age, more than 90% of cervical cancers detected are adequately treated, and 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by age 15 years. Slovenia could even become one of the first European countries to succeed in eliminating cervical cancer, based on the good results achieved in the National Screening Programme ZORA, as the first two WHO targets are already being met. The third target, 90% HPV vaccination of girls, has not yet been achieved, as in many European countries. HPV vaccination coverages vary considerably across Europe from less than 5% to more than 90%, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Reporting Form on Immunisation (JRF).

The new European partnership in the Project PERCH thus joins a number of experts and European NGOs and professional associations in working towards the WHO vaccination target. By sharing knowledge and experience, PERCH will improve the capacity of Member States to plan and implement HPV vaccination campaigns, improve the data and monitoring system for HPV vaccination and HPV screening, increase knowledge and awareness of HPV-related diseases and their prevention in specific target groups (parents and adolescents), and improve the knowledge and skills of health professionals in communicating about HPV vaccination.

The Institute of Oncology Ljubljana plays an important role in the PERCH project by managing the Work Package for Communication and Dissemination, which is responsible for coordinated communication between the project partners and for disseminating information, informing and promoting the project results. 

We joined the project in the hope and confidence that, with our joint efforts, we will soon be able to increase HPV vaccination rates in Slovenia to the point where, in the future, Slovenian girls and boys will no longer die from HPV-related cancers. By tackling HPV vaccination inequalities today, we will contribute to eliminating the unacceptable differences in the cervical cancer burden across Europe in the future.

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