Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women, with an estimated 266,000 deaths and 528,000 new cases in 2012. A large majority (around 85%) of the global burden occurs in the less developed regions, where it accounts for almost 12% of all female cancers.
Although most infections with HPV cause no symptoms, persistent genital HPV infection can cause cervical cancer in women. Virtually all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to genital infection with HPV and it is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. HPV can also cause other types of anogenital cancer, head and neck cancers, and genital warts in both men and women. HPV infections are transmitted through sexual contact.
Two HPV vaccines are now being marketed in many countries throughout the world. Both vaccines are highly efficacious in preventing infection with virus types 16 and 18, which are together responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases globally. They are also highly efficacious in preventing precancerous cervical lesions caused by these types. One vaccine is also highly efficacious in preventing anogenital warts, a common genital disease which is virtually always caused by infection with HPV types 6 and 11. The primary target group in most of the countries recommending HPV vaccination is young adolescent girls. Data from clinical trials and initial post-marketing surveillance conducted in several continents show both vaccines to be safe.
WHO position papers
Note: The WHO HPV vaccine position paper has recently been updated to reflect the recommendation for a 2-dose schedule for girls younger than 15 years of age. A 3-dose schedule remains necessary if immunization is initiated after the 15th birthday, and for those known to be immunocompromised and/or HIV-infected.
Human papillomavirus vaccines - English and French (October 2014)
- Full list of WHO vaccine position papers and accompanying documents
- Background documents from SAGE April 2014 meeting on HPV vaccine schedules
- Immunization schedules
- WHO HPV Laboratory Network (LabNet)
- GLOBOCAN 2012 - Cervical Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide in 2012
- WHO population estimates of the 9-13 year old age cohort, by single year of age, sex and country, 2010-2020 based on UN Population Division 2010 Revision of the World Population Prospects (published in 2012)
- WHO IARC Planning and Developing Population-Based Cancer Registration in Low- and Middle-Income Settings
- WHO prequalified vaccines - Vaccine safety (HPV)
- Searchable database of WHO pre qualified vaccines (select disease as vaccine type)
HPV vaccine reaction rates information
WHO Technical Report Series No. 962, 2011 Annex 1
- Guidelines for national regulatory authorities
- The Immunological Basis for Immunization: HPV
Last updated: 21 November 2014.