HPV vaccine dramatically reduced cervical cancer rates: research

Coronavirus vaccine getting put into arm
Associated Press - Lynne Sladky

An earlier version of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine dramatically reduced the rates of cervical cancer among women offered the shot when they were 12 and 13, according to research from the U.K. released Wednesday. 

The study published in The Lancet found the cervical cancer rates decreased 87 percent among those aged 12 to 13 who received the vaccine Cervarix. The reduction was less extreme in older age groups, with rates being 62 percent lower in those aged 14 to 16 and 34 percent lower in those aged 16 to 18.

HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers and is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. It has been associated with vaginal, vulval, anal, penile and select head and neck cancers.

Researchers from Kings College London concluded that the vaccine prevented approximately 450 cervical cancers and about 17,200 pre-cancers by mid-2019. Cancer Research UK funded the analysis that examined cervical cancer diagnoses in England among women aged 20 to 64 between January 2006 and June 2019.

The results suggested the vaccines worked better when administered before likely sexual activity.

Cervarix, the specific vaccine studied that combats the two most prevalent HPV types, is no longer administered in the U.S. and the U.K. after another type of vaccine called Gardasil that protects against four strains became available. 

The U.K. stopped giving out Cervarix in 2012, and GlaxoSmithKline voluntarily took it off the U.S. market in 2016.

Still, lead author Peter Sasieni called the results “truly rewarding” in a statement.

“Assuming most people continue to get the HPV vaccine and go for screening, cervical cancer will become a rare disease,” he said. “This year we have already seen the power of vaccines in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. These data show that vaccination works in preventing some cancers.”

The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a HPV vaccination campaign earlier this year, aiming to boost vaccination rates in lagging states such as Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. 

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation in 2006 for all 11- and 12-year-old girls to get the HPV vaccine, the rate does not match those for other vaccinations, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The HPV vaccination rate has improved in recent years with almost 59 percent of teenagers being up to date and 75.1 percent receiving at least one dose, according to 2020 data.

Tags Cervical cancer HPV HPV vaccine Human papillomavirus U.K. United Kingdom Vaccine

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