European Commission publishes proposal for a Council Recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers

On 31 January 2024, the European Commission published the text of a proposed Council of the EU Recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers. The purpose of the Recommendation is to assist EU Member States in working together to address cancer risks associated with Hepatitis B (HBV) and Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV infection may cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers and HBV infection may cause liver cancer. 

ECO congratulates the European Commission for putting forward further actions on vaccine-preventable cancers and welcomes the recommendations, in particular:

  • That both vaccinations should be offered for free and/or be fully reimbursed.
  • That vaccination should be delivered in schools, and that authorities should increase awareness of the risks of cancer in the target population.
  • That countries streamline their procedures to make it easier to obtain parental consent to vaccinate minors.
  • That national cancer plans include immunisation against vaccine-preventable cancers.
  • That the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control develop a dashboard to tracks national coverage rates for both types of vaccination – by the end of 2024.
  • That the monitoring of vaccination coverage rates can be improved by building or upgrading population-based electronic vaccination registries that make data available at national and subnational levels allowing data recorded by different vaccine providers to be seamlessly transferred, informing efficient, data-driven public health action. This to be accomplished In compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation,
  • That HBV vaccination be routine in drug treatment programs and prisons.
  • That, specifically for HBV, national efforts should be strengthened to reach the 2030 targets set by WHO:
    • 95 % vaccination coverage (3rd dose) of childhood HBV vaccination;
    • 95 % of pregnant women screened for hepatitis B;
    • 95 % of newborns who received timely (within 24 hours of birth) HBV birth-dose vaccination, including by strengthening systems for the monitoring of progress towards those targets and by making use of available support from ECDC if needed.

The recommendation will now be reviewed by all EU member states before a formal agreement is concluded. ECO will encourage additional consideration be given to:

  • Providing clearer indication that eliminating HPV cancers should be achieved through gender-neutral vaccination, including surpassing the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan by aiming for 90% vaccination coverage for all genders.
  • Urging  member states to formally endorse, and express shared support for, the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation and commit to supporting its application, including via rigorous enforcement of the new Digital Services Act.

“The proposed Recommendations are welcomed as a great start. However, there is more that could be included about the fundamental importance of vaccinating both boys and girls against HPV, a target that every country in Europe must now strive for. We hope to work with all Member States, including those who are leading the achievement of HPV cancer elimination, to identify bolder goals. The EU HPV-associated cancer elimination goal is certainly ambitious – yet also very achievable - if all countries now take the necessary action to prevent more cancers in the future; the way to achieve this is gender-neutral HPV vaccination.”

- Daniel Kelly, Co-Chair of ECO HPV Action Network

For further information about this topic, and to connect to ECO's work on HPV and HBV vaccination, please contact Silvia Romeo at silvia.romeo@europeancancer.org