HPV vaccine cuts infection by half


Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 2:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 2:36 p.m.

Atlanta

A vaccine against a cervical cancer virus cut infections in teen girls by half in the first study to measure the shot’s impact since it came on the market. The results impressed health experts and a top government top health official called them striking.

The research released last Wednesday echoes studies done before the HPV vaccine became available in 2006. But the new study is the first evidence of just how well it works now that it is in general use.

Only about half of teen girls in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of the expensive vaccine, and just a third of teen girls have had all three shots, according to the latest government figures.

“These are striking results and I think they should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of the common sexually transmitted virus called HPV, for human papillomavirus. The vaccine, which costs about $130 per dose, protects against a few of those strains, including two blamed for 70 percent of cervical cancers. The shots work best if given before someone is sexually active so the emphasis has been on giving the shots to 11- and 12-year olds.

The CDC study compared infection rates in girls ages 14 to 19 before and after the vaccine became available. The proportion infected with the targeted HPV strains dropped 56 percent, from about 12 percent before the vaccine was sold to 5 percent.

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