On Wednesday 2 December, the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) held a hearing focused on cancer-related lifestyle risk factors. The following areas of cancer causation and prevention were covered: tobacco consumption, alcohol use, dietary behaviours, UV exposure, and HPV vaccination. Among other leading experts in the field, the session featured a presentation by Daniel Kelly, speaking as a Co-Chair of our HPV Action Network on the role of HPV vaccination in cancer prevention.
Daniel Kelly emphasised the opportunity that Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan presents for potentially eliminating an entire class of preventable cancers in Europe through gender-neutral vaccination programmes:
“Europe should consider this as a shared problem, and have some shared ambitions and goals. We recommend that the EU commits to a core goal of matching the WHO Global Strategy for the Elimination of Cervical Cancers, and going further, to implement policies and strategies to eliminate all cancers caused by HPV.”
Highlighting that 20-30% of HPV caused cancers occur in men, he recommended that Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan provides encouragement to all Member States to implement gender neutral HPV vaccination programmes.
“We can and we must be ambitious. The biggest opportunity we have is to collaborate. HPV is a very practical problem to which vaccination provides a very practical solution. The vaccine exists, and the challenge is now to make it available in all countries. We need to be bold and to seize the opportunity.”
The discussion that followed with MEPs covered ensuring free access to the vaccine, tackling vaccine misinformation, overcoming major discrepancies between countries on coverage, and the need to implement gender neutral vaccination programmes across Europe.
Véronique Trillet-Lenoir MEP (Renew Europe, France): “We need to work all together on insufficient levels of uptake of HPV vaccine, at European level and in the Member States. It is a very urgent situation and needs to be at the heart of our work to fight cancer.”
Alessandra Moretti MEP (S&D, Italy): “We need a very stringent European HPV gender-neutral vaccination programme. Every young person that is not vaccinated is at risk.”
Sara Cerdas MEP (S&D, Portugal): “More and more, with the widespread of misinformation, we are seeing more and more vaccine hesitancy, and this is something we must fight against.”
Nicolás González Casares MEP (S&D, Spain): “We need to have an HPV vaccination campaign throughout the entire Europe, not just for young girls.”
Giórgos Georgíou MEP (GUE/NGL, Cyprus): “All vaccination needs to be performed free of charge. Health is a social good.”
This was the third hearing held by the BECA Special Committee since its launch in October 2020, following meetings on the fight against breast cancer and on the support to cancer research in the context of Horizon Europe’s EU Cancer Mission. Collectively, these hearings are aimed at informing the drafting of a report incorporating the Committee’s recommendations on the fight against cancer, which is expected to be published around Summer 2021 and serve as a basis for the European Parliament’s scrutiny of the forthcoming Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
More information on the hearing, including the speakers’ presentation and a link to the video recording of the session, can be found here on the European Parliament’s website. A summary of the hearing, including key points from each presentation and from the discussions, is also available here.