Austria goes ahead with plan to vaccinate pregnant women

Austria has become the first country in Europe to demand that children vaccinated with the cervical cancer vaccine do so for life — upending current guidelines to reserve vaccination for children who have to be exempt from a sexually transmitted disease.

Under strict new rules, doctors in Austria must inform parents that the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) might not be rolled out in the second trimester of a pregnant woman’s pregnancy. The HPV vaccine helps reduce the risk of cervical cancer, the deadliest form of cancer for women.

The announcement comes despite a study last year that found women who got HPV vaccines in the second trimester of pregnancy had a 34 percent reduction in their risk of cervical cancer later in life.

Although Austria is moving ahead with the recommendations of its medical board, a separate medical advisory committee and the minister of health, the country’s registry authority, have argued the new guidelines don’t pass legal muster, according to the Austria Press Agency.

A national consultation is expected to start this summer, and the government could even have to make a case for the new vaccination rules in the courts, the Austria Press Agency reported.

But it’s likely the guidelines will stay in place, according to Doctor Michaela Soerenkorsk, a consultant on the medical board of the Austrian Academy of Medical Sciences.

“Despite disagreement with some medical bodies, the governing guidelines for the vaccination of pregnant women will stay in place,” Soerenkorsk told the Austria Press Agency.

Experts point out that the international recommendations are the same. The World Health Organization, in its quadrennial review for vaccines, concluded in 2016 that “a systematic review of the evidence reveals that there is no significant evidence of adverse effects to pregnant women” who were inoculated with HPV vaccines.

Last year, a “report of the distinguished panel of the International Expert Group on Interventions for Communicable Diseases concluded that the results of the current findings on the effectiveness of HPV vaccination during pregnancy are comparable to the evidence of the vaccination at age 13,” the WHO said.

On Tuesday, a coalition of Austrian members of parliament stood up in a Parliament committee to tell the government to take the reports seriously.

“This view is the consensus of the scientific community,” Wolfgang Bach of the Christian Democratic Party, told the Austria Press Agency.

Austria’s new rules would have significantly weakened the efficacy of the HPV vaccine. — Bruhnshart! (@AdamBruhn) April 25, 2018

Meanwhile, other countries in Europe have considered or are considering HPV vaccines for pregnant women, including Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Greece, Belgium, the U.K. and the U.S.

Under recommendations issued in November 2015, Canadian health officials recommended the HPV vaccine for all teens in grades 6 to 12.

That same year, Germany’s health authorities recommended HPV vaccination for all girls and women, including pregnant women. Finnish health officials have recommended the vaccine for both girls and women.


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