By a decision of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the HPV vaccine has been included in the national vaccination programme (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Decree 410/2013). The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer by preventing precancerous changes caused by a virus in the cervix.
As a result of a tendering process, a vaccine called Cervarix was selected for the Finnish vaccination programme. It meets the criteria for a vaccine to be included in the national vaccination programme regarding its scientifically proven effectiveness, safety at individual and population level and cost-effectiveness.
The first HPV vaccinations were administered in November 2013. The vaccine will be offered at schools to all girls aged 11-12 years (6th class). During the first two years, the vaccination will also be administered to girls aged 13-15 (classes 7-9). An attempt will be made to begin administration with the oldest age group, or girls in the 9th class, to allow them to receive the entire vaccination series before they finish comprehensive school.
The HPV vaccination is given as a three-dose series. The second dose is given one month and the third dose six months after the first vaccination. The vaccines will be free of charge for girls in the target group.
The same tried and tested principles and practices will be followed in the administration of the HPV vaccine as for other vaccines in the national programme. Having a vaccination that is part of the national programme is voluntary and free of charge. The basic principle is that administering national programme vaccinations to a minor who is unable to make personal decisions about his or her own treatment requires the consent of a guardian.
The National Institute for Health and Welfare provides national guidelines for implementing the vaccination programme. The practical implementation of the programme is the responsibility of the local authorities.
Cervical cancer in Finland
Every year, some 150 women are diagnosed with a cervical cancer, and 50 of them die of this disease. In addition, abnormal smear test results that require monitoring are found in 34,000 women, and cytological changes that require treatment are found in nearly 3,000 women. The HPV vaccine will have a significant effect on reducing this disease burden.
It is estimated that the HPV vaccination programme will result in future savings in health care expenditure. The HPV vaccine has been included in the national vaccination programmes of nearly all European countries.