To document progress with human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine introduction in three closely related European countries, one with organized (the Netherlands) and two with opportunistic cervical cancer screening (Belgium and Luxembourg).
Experts involved in cervical cancer screening and national immunization programs from the three countries were contacted to provide information on the decision-making process concerning the introduction of HPV vaccine. Sales statistics were obtained from Intercontinental Marketing Services.
Advisory boards in all three countries advised organized HPV vaccination of girls of 12 years with variable catch-up policies. In Belgium, the national health authority partially reimburses the HPV vaccine for girls of 12-15 years (recently extended until 18 years). In Luxembourg, 12-year-old girls are invited for free vaccination, but the HPV vaccine is also free of charge for female adolescents of 13-17 years. The number of vaccines reimbursed in Belgium in December 2007 to May 2008 corresponds with the amount required to fully vaccinate 29% of the female population aged 12-15 years. In Luxembourg, between March and November 2008, the immunization program delivered a quantity of HPV vaccines which theoretically covered 29% of females aged 12-17 years. In the Netherlands, nationwide HPV vaccination of girls of 12 years will start in September 2009. The sales of HPV vaccines (all ages combined) were by far the lowest in the Netherlands.
Up to the end of 2008, HPV vaccination efforts reached less than a third of the target population in Belgium and Luxembourg. If the latest trend continues, the current policy is expected to reach to most half of the target population. Well-planned introduction of vaccination combined with an organized screening program and active surveillance are crucial for the program to achieve and monitor its desired aims. Such surveillance should include linkage between vaccination, screening and cancer registries.