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HPV vaccine slashes rate of infection by 86% in UK

Published on 18/06/18 at 09:53am

Since the introduction of the vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus in 2008, there has been an 86% drop in the incidence of infection in women aged 16 to 21.

Recurrent HPV infections are the main cause of the majority of cases of cervical cancer and the introduction of vaccination for girls aged between 12 and 13 was brought in to protect women from facing the prospect of developing the cancer.

This type of cancer is the most common type for women under the age 35 and has the highest incidence between the ages of 25 and 29. Despite the impact the vaccination is having, rates of cervical cancer are still increasing, with a 5% increase in the last decade.

It will be hoped that the latest figures will eventually see this figure begin to turnaround to show a reduction.

Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said: “These results are very promising and mean that in years to come we can expect to see significant decreases in cervical cancer. The study also reminds us how important it is to keep vaccination rates high to reduce the spread of this preventable infection. I encourage all parents of girls aged 12 to 13 to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine.”

The uptake of the vaccine was found to also protect beyond the HPV 16 and HPV 18 strains that are higher risk for the development of cervical cancer; the study found that genital warts, caused by a low-risk type of HPV infection, had also fallen by 89% in teenage girls and by 70% in boys.

There is now a campaign pushing to increase the coverage of vaccination to also extend to teenage boys.

The virus is known to be linked to various cancers in men, such as anal, throat, head and neck cancers. However, on grounds of cost-effectiveness, it has not, as yet, been offered to boys under the reasoning that providing it to girls will provide herd immunity.

However, it has been reported that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will move to ensure that teenage boys are also provided with the vaccine.

Ben Hargreaves

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