Human Papillomavirus and Considerations for Prevention Post-COVID-19

Publication Summary

Although it is a preventable and potentially curable disease, cervical cancer is still a common cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the leading cause of more than 90% of cervical cancer cases. It is also the cause of other anogenital cancers such as vulvar (70%), vaginal (70%) and penile (60%) and oropharyngeal cancer (60%). Both cervical cancer screening and advanced treatment have contributed to a steady decline in cervical cancer incidence in Canada. The introduction of HPV vaccines has also been instrumental in reducing transmission of the HPV strains that cause cervical and other cancers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had unintended consequences on global and Canadian health systems and the health of Canadian populations. Due to concerns over COVID-19, some patients were hesitant to seek medical attention and the resources and services needed to diagnose cancer became limited.

The social disruption caused by the pandemic has also delayed and disrupted routine immunization programs including immunization against the human papillomavirus (HPV). This document reviews the evidence on HPV immunization effectiveness in Canada and investigates what HPV vaccines are, why they are important for population health in Canada, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the future epidemiology of HPV in Canada.