The Groningen Municipal Health Service, Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst (GGD) Groningen is giving out free Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations to youths aged 19 to 26 at various locations in the province.
Initially, only girls with ages 10 and 11 got the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. But, starting in 2021, the government began to provide HPV vaccinations to boys of the same age. This is done to prevent HPV transmissions before they get sexually active.
This year, the GGD Groningen is pushing for all youths between the age of 19 to 26 to get this vaccine, including international residents.
“We have 62,000 youths of that age here, and we want everybody to get it.” Said Lily Benjamin-Merenns, GGG Groningen spokesperson.
Benjamin-Merens further explained that the Dutch government will send out invitations for youths to get vaccinated. If someone wishes to be vaccinated but has yet to receive an invitation, they can make an appointment with the GGD online.
According to the GGD, HPV is sexually transmitted, and its infection can cause six different types of cancer, including cervical, penile, anus, and oropharyngeal or throat cancer. It may take from 10 to 15 years for cancer to develop.
“When someone gets HPV, they would not get any symptoms until the cancer is developed, and that could take up to 15 years, that is why it is so important to prevent it,” explained Benjamin-Merens to the Groningen Observer.
The bigger picture
According to the Dutch government, one out of eight people will contract HPV. Every year, 1500 people in the Netherlands get cancer due to HPV. These are mainly women, who make up 1100, compared to 400 men.
The vaccine given in this vaccination program is bivalent (Cervarix®). Doctors administer a total of two doses to each person with a period of 150 rest days in between them.
According to the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport, the vaccine can offer protection against types 16 and 18 of HPV. From 2019 to 2020, these two types caused 649 deaths in the Netherlands.
“Only those who are well informed know what this shot protects against and can make an informed decision,” said the representative of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), as reported by Hart Van Nederland.
Youths between the age of 19 to 26 can sign up to get free HPV vaccination until the summer of 2023. Injections of the first dose will be conducted from the 31st of January to summer of 2023 , while the second dose will be administered between August and December of 2023 (see schedule and vaccination spots here).
After that period, youths who wish to get the vaccine will have to do it at their own expense. A dose of the HPV vaccine could cost up to 400 euros in the Netherlands.