Saturday 4 March is HPV Awareness Day. It is a day to stop and think about the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the six kinds of cancer it can cause. These cancers affect both men and women. Fortunately, the HPV vaccine offers effective protection. This is why, on the recommendation of the Health Council of the Netherlands, a one-off catch-up campaign is taking place in 2023 for young people aged 18–27. This group of young people can get vaccinated free of charge until the end of the year. Over 160,000 of them have already made an appointment. For the remaining 1.15 million, however, time is of the essence: getting vaccinated involves two jabs and there must be at least five months between them. Have you lost or forgotten your invitation, or has it simply slipped your mind? On HPV Awareness Day, 45 Municipal Public Health Service vaccination locations will be open so that young people can get vaccinated without an appointment.
Cancer caused by a virus
HPV can lead to cancer in both men and women. The virus is highly contagious: 80% of people will become infected during their lifetime. In most cases, the body cleans up the virus on its own within two years – but for 10 to 20% of those infected, this does not happen. Instead, HPV causes cell damage that may then turn into cancer. In men, this can be cancer in the mouth, throat, penis or anus. In women, the cancer might develop in the cervix, vagina, labia, mouth or throat. Over 400 men and women in the Netherlands die from HPV-related cancers each year. To provide answers to any and all questions about HPV and the vaccine, RIVM is organising an online chat on 3 March at https://www.instagram.com/rivmnl/.
Free jabs in 2023 only
As part of the National Immunisation Programme, girls and boys receive an invitation to get vaccinated against HPV in the year they turn 10. Because boys have only been invited to protect themselves against HPV since last year, a one-off catch-up campaign is taking place. All boys, young men and unvaccinated girls and young women aged 12–27 received an invitation to get vaccinated either last year or earlier this year. Teenagers under the age of 18 are being sent letters for an appointment with youth healthcare services. Young people aged 18–27 can visit the Municipal Public Health Service to get vaccinated. On 4 March, no appointment is needed. The catch-up campaign will end this December. After that, young people aged 18–27 will have to pay to get vaccinated. The total cost will be between €350 and €400.
About the HPV vaccination scheme
The one-off expansion of the HPV vaccination scheme follows an advisory report published by the Health Council of the Netherlands and is in line with the target of the World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve 90% vaccination coverage among girls in order to eliminate cervical cancer. In the Netherlands, full vaccination coverage among girls is currently around 65%. Young people who want to protect themselves against HPV can schedule an appointment with the Municipal Public Health Service themselves at www.hpvafspraak.nl. The HPV vaccination scheme is part of the National Immunisation Programme, which is coordinated by RIVM. See www.hpvkeuzehulp.nl for more information.
On Saturday, 4 March 2023, HPV Awareness Day, you can get an HPV vaccination at 45 locations without making an appointment. Remember to bring along valid identification (ID card or passport).
Or make an appointment to get both jabs in 2023 free of charge. Simply make an appointment at www.hpvafspraak.nl, using your DigiD.
No DigiD? Make an appointment by calling 0800-1608.