“The means in establishments to be able to organize vaccination were complicated to implement,” notes the spokesperson for the French Pediatric Society

The Minister Delegate in charge of Health announced on Sunday that “13 to 15%” of 5th grade middle school students were vaccinated against papillomaviruses, far from the 30% desired by the government.



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A nurse injects a dose of papillomavirus vaccine in a college in Vern-sur-Seiche, near Rennes, October 9, 2023 [photo d'illustration].  (DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

For Christèle Gras-Le Guen, professor of medicine, head of the pediatrics department at the Nantes University Hospital, invited Sunday March 3 on franceinfo, one of the reasons which explains the government’s difficulties in achieving its objectives concerning vaccination against papillomaviruses is based on the make that “the means in establishments to be able to organize this vaccination” have been “complicated to implement”. The spokesperson for the French Pediatric Society adds that it is still “a little early” and “the step is high” taking into account the fact that“we started from an extremely low rate”.

On Sunday, the Minister Delegate in charge of Health and Prevention Frédéric Valletoux announced that “117 000 5th grade middle school students were vaccinated against papillomaviruses, or “13 to 15%” of them compared to 30% desired by the government. Frédéric Valletoux specified that this objective was set on the basis of a “experiment carried out in the Grand Est region”where after two years, this rate of 30% had been reached.

franceinfo: In your opinion, why are we so far from the government’s initial objective?

Christèle Gras-Le Guen : There are several reasons for this. The first is that we had a target of 30% linked to the results of a previous experiment but which was a two-year target. So, it’s a little early to be able to claim to have reached 30% straight away. The other reason, I think, is that we started from an extremely low rate in the population since, spontaneously, parents were not used until then to protect their children and adolescents against this virus. . So the step is high.

Did the government’s communication on this subject seem sufficient to you?

There was significant communication at the start of the school year to raise awareness among students and families. On the other hand, what was complicated to implement were the means in the establishments to be able to organize this vaccination: having the rooms, the chairs, the equipment. It probably takes a little more time to be able to reach a cruising speed that allows us to vaccinate as many children as we want.

It also seems that private education has not played the game, in any case that is what the CGT says about this sector, what do you think?

In health issues such as protection against a virus that causes cancer, it is complicated to hear that positions can be different depending on the type of establishment. That today, in 2024, in France, the position of establishments is different depending on whether they are a public or private establishment, is something which is absolutely not acceptable. This is a point on which I hope that we will be able to progress and that all children, regardless of the type of establishment in which they are educated, can be offered this vaccination, that seems obvious to me.

Do you think there is an anti-vax problem?

We are in a vaccine-sceptical country, we know that, but in no case should religious ideologies be put forward to protect against cancer, whatever this type of cancer. We must distinguish between what concerns religion and beliefs and what relates to public health. These are subjects on which we probably need to move forward today. I remind you that this is a virus which little by little will create lesions – at the genital level in particular – which can give rise to cancer, 10 or 15 years later. Forward-thinking countries like Australia, for example, are on their way to eradicating cervical cancer with an approach based on vaccination and screening. Today in France, we are 20 years late. We must manage to reverse this because French children also have the right to these innovations and progress in health.

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