HPV vaccination rates for girls will keep on increasing, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Tuesday afternoon at an event to launch events for Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

The week is marked around Europe and this year falls from January 24 to 30.

“Cervical Cancer Week is an excellent opportunity to inform and raise awareness of the issues surrounding the disease,” Ioannou said. “It is the fourth most common form of cancer for women worldwide.”

The ministry of health included the HPV vaccine into state vaccination programme from the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. In 2018-2019 the vaccine was given to 3,063 girls in the first year of secondary school and Iannou said the goal was to keep on increasing vaccination rates.

But he pointed to a worrying trend in Cyprus.

From 2010 to 2014 there was an average of eight deaths a year from the illness, whereas in 2015 and 2016 there were 14 and 13 deaths respectively. The group most affected were women in the 35-50 range.

He said that in 2018 there were 570,000 cases worldwide of which 313,365 were fatal.

In Europe there were 60,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer and each year 30,000 die from the illness.

Ioannou announced that the ministry has launched a new action plan with a focus on prevention and early detection. There will be a focus on the HPV vaccine and screening tests.

“The value of the vaccination is incredibly important, as we can see from the fact that 80 per cent of cervical cancer deaths occur in women that are unvaccinated,” he said.

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