The HPV Jab Could Eradicate Cervical Cancer Within Decades, Say Scientists

Henrietta Brewer
June 27, 2019

In a letter to Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, Health PS Susan Mochache argues that vaccinating 10-year-old girls would significantly reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.

The findings show that cervical cancer could potentially be "eliminated" within decades, based on the study which showed a fall in HPV cases and in pre-cancerous growths.

Vaccination against the virus that causes nearly all cervical cancer is having a major impact on stopping infections and should significantly reduce cases of the disease within a decade, researchers said on Wednesday.

And experts said if uptake remains high, the disease would soon be eliminated in countries including the UK. In such countries after five to eight years of vaccination, anogenital wart diagnoses declined by 88% among girls and 86% in boys aged 15-19 years compared with 44% among girls and 1% among boys from countries with single-cohort or low routine vaccination coverage.

Rates fell more in countries where a wider age group was vaccinated and where coverage was higher.

Earlier analysis of studies for four years post-vaccination has also shown substantial decreases in HPV 16 and 18.

Professor Marc Brisson of Laval University Canada says: "The landscape of HPV vaccination is rapidly changing, with several countries recently switching from three to two-dose schedules, gender-neutral vaccination, and a newer vaccine that targets more HPV types". Cases decreased 67% among 15- to 19-year-old girls and 48% in boys; 54% in 20- to 24-year-old women and 32% in men; and 31% in 25- to 29-year-old women.

The vaccine protects against HPV, a virus that's commonly spread by sex and can cause certain- cancers and genital warts.

"We're seeing everything that we'd want to see".

In the United States, HPV vaccination rates have been rising, too, but at a much slower pace - and not fast enough to curb the rising rates of HPV-related cancers. In Japan, the vaccination programme was suspended.

There are 3,200 cases of cervical cancer and 850 deaths from the disease each year.

There is also no data from less wealthy countries, where there are the highest numbers of women with and dying from cervical cancer.

Brisson urged governments in the most-affected countries to take note: "Our results show the vaccines are working - so I hope in the upcoming years we will.see rates of HPV vaccination increase in countries that need it most", he said. Still, the virus can lead to many types of cancer, including cervical, anal, vaginal and penile as well as cancer of the throat.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said the data should boost faith in the jab.

At least 115 countries and territories include HPV vaccine in their immunization programs, and almost 40 low- and middle-income countries are expected to do so by 2021.

The CDC committee also decided that people through age 45 could benefit from receiving the vaccine but acknowledged that those choices should be made through shared clinical decision making.

"This study furthers the growing evidence to counteract those who don't believe that this vaccine works, which is now extremely encouraging", said chief executive Robert Music.

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