A recent survey reveals that 53% of Belgians wrongly believe that infection by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is rare, whereas it actually affects 80% of sexually active men and women once or more in their lifetime. Its consequences are also largely unknown among the population.
Some 15,000 people in Europe, of which 1,000 Belgians, were surveyed by MSD. Merck & Co., Inc., or Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) outside the United States and Canada is an American pharmaceutical company and one of the largest worldwide.
According to the survey results, only 52% of Belgian respondents are familiar with HPV and 53% think it is a rare virus. Its consequences are also underestimated. Only 44% of the interviewed Belgians are aware that vaccination can prevent HPV-related cancer. Among this 44 %, a vast majority (86%) only link the virus to cervical cancer and not to other forms of possibly-related cancers such as head and neck, anus, vagina or penis cancers. HPV may also cause genital warts or respiratory papillomatosis.
Almost 70% of Belgians believe wrongly that women are more likely to contract the virus.
The Belgian Conseil Supérieur de la Santé (CSS) recommends that girls and boys aged 9 to 14 be inoculated before the first sexual intercourse and it endorses a catch-up vaccination up until 26 years old for those who were not vaccinated before age 15.
“There is a real desire within our governments to fight against HPV. Wallonia will offer the HPV vaccine for free to 12 to 14-year-old boys and girls as of September 2019. By pursuing such a proactive policy and by adopting all CSS recommendations, we are convinced that the virus’ presence will be drastically reduced within 20 years,” Catholic University of Leuven’s Saint-Luc University Clinics’ Gynaecologist Professor Squifflet commented. The HPV vaccination’s effectiveness depends on the degree of immunization coverage. For (pre) cervical cancer, however, routine screening is still necessary for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated women.