Understanding the public health value and defining preferred product characteristics for therapeutic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines: World Health Organization consultations, October 2021—March 2022

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


The World Health Organization (WHO) global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer (CxCa) could result in >62 million lives saved by 2120 if strategy targets are reached and maintained: 90% of adolescent girls receiving prophylactic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, 70% of women receiving twice-lifetime cervical cancer screening, and 90% of cervical pre-cancer lesions and invasive CxCa treated. However, the cost and complexity of CxCa screening and treatment approaches has hampered scale-up, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and new approaches are needed. Therapeutic HPV vaccines (TxV), which could clear persistent high-risk HPV infection and/or cause regression of pre-cancerous lesions, are in early clinical development and might offer one such approach. During October 2021 to March 2022, WHO, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a series of global expert consultations to lay the groundwork for understanding the potential value of TxV in the context of current CxCa prevention efforts and for defining WHO preferred product characteristics (PPCs) for TxV. WHO PPCs describe preferences for vaccine attributes that would help optimize vaccine value and use in meeting the global public health need. This paper reports on the main discussion points and findings from the expert consultations. Experts identified several ways in which TxV might address challenges in current CxCa prevention programmes, but emphasized that the potential value of TxV will depend on their degree of efficacy and how quickly they can be developed and implemented relative to ongoing scale-up of existing interventions. Consultation participants also discussed potential use-cases for TxV, important PPC considerations (e.g., vaccine indications, target populations, and delivery strategies), and critical modelling needs for predicting TxV impact and cost-effectiveness.