HPV vaccination in the Netherlands
Less than half (46%) of the 12- and 13-year-old girls invited last year to receive HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination showed up. The RIVM (Institute for Health and Environment) is worried that this decrease will result in dozens of deaths in the future, as the vaccine prevents the infection from the most carcinogenic strains of the virus, responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer.
After the introduction of the vaccination program, about 10 years ago, the vaccination coverage was about 50%. Over the years, the enthusiasm for this very safe and effective vaccine rose to 61%.
Why aren’t girls getting the HPV vaccination in the Netherlands?
According to the institute, the teenagers don’t get vaccinated because their parents are afraid of side effects of the vaccine such as chronic fatigue. However, the RIVM emphasizes that research has shown that the drug is safe.
Furthermore, in the Netherlands (unfortunately) Pap smears aren’t done annually but only every five years (starting from 30 years old). This is very different from many countries (Italy, US..) where check-ups start when a woman is sexually active (or when she turns 18) and are done every 1 or 2 years. Asking for (or having had) additional tests can be a harrowing experience. Therefore, we should all take advantage of the added security the HPV vaccination gives!
Vaccinations in the Netherlands
Overall, the enthusiasm for all vaccinations has been decreasing for a while: in just a year the immunizations have dropped by 1%. While the Netherlands is doing better than many other countries, with average vaccination rates above 90% (except for HPV), this negative trend makes it more likely that diseases such as measles will break out in the future (as observed in other countries). A broad vaccination coverage ensures that pathogens aren’t circulating in a population, and even protects those too young or too sick to be vaccinated (a concept called herd immunity).
According to dr. Mascha Kamphuis, a lot of anxiety concerning vaccinations is spread through social media, where worried parents can sometimes find misinformation portrayed as verified scientific knowledge. The fake news about a connection between vaccines and diseases such as autism started 20 years ago, thanks to fraudulent research from a discredited former British doctor, A. Wakefield. The paper has since been retracted by the journal after it emerged that Wakefield had extensive financial ties to lawyers and families who were pursuing the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine in the courts and that most of his research participants were litigants. However, its claims have been responsible for damages to public health that continue up till today.
Personal opinion: coming from a country where the rates for many vaccinations had fallen below 85%, causing a 5000-cases measles epidemic, and where a non-graduated vice-premier spreads lies about vaccines causing diseases, I sincerely hope the Netherlands isn’t going down that path. Trust your doctors, not strangers from the internet!
What do you think about vaccinations? Let us know in the comments!