Another day, another study on the potentially life-saving impact of vaccines. This time it’s a new study on the vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. Earlier this week, researchers announced that since the vaccine came on the scene, rates of HPV among young women in the U.S. have plummeted.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to analyze HPV prevalence among women ages 14 to 34 in the four years before the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006 and during a four-year period after the vaccine was available. Among women, the vaccine is recommended for all young girls ages 11 to 12 and through age 26 if not previously immunized. (The vaccine is also recommended for boys, but this study focused on young girls and women.) So, here’s the big reveal: The study found that within six years of vaccine introduction, there’s been a 64 percent decrease in the prevalence of four strains of HPV among young women ages 14 to 19. Researchers also uncovered a 34 percent decrease of the four strains among women ages 20 to 24.

Study authors Lauri Markowitz, Gui Liu, Susan Hariri, Martin Steinau, Eileen Dunne and Elizabeth Unger write:

Our data confirm previous findings of an early impact of HPV vaccination in the United States among females aged 14 to 19 years and extend the findings to females in their early 20s. The decline in vaccine type prevalence after introduction of HPV vaccination is greater than expected based on current 3-dose coverage. This outcome could be due to herd protection or effectiveness of less than a complete 3-dose series, for which there is accumulating evidence.

Digging deeper into the study’s findings, researchers found that the greatest decline in the four strains of HPV — these are the four strains covered by the quadrivalent HPV vaccine, also referred to as 4vHPV — were observed among young women ages 14 to 19. This age group also has the highest HPV vaccination rate. The study reported that just 51 percent of those ages 14 to 19 received at least one dose of HPV vaccine (full vaccination is three doses). But that somewhat-suboptimal vaccine coverage percentage, coupled with news of a 64 percent drop in HPV prevalence, seems to reflect just how effective the vaccine is.

The study did not find a decrease in HPV prevalence among women ages 24 to 29 and 30 to 34. Also, researchers couldn’t find evidence of herd immunity effects in this study; however, they noted that herd effects have been observed for genital warts and HPV in countries with higher HPV vaccination rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and 14 million new cases occur each year. The nation’s most common sexually transmitted disease, HPV often goes away on its. But when it doesn’t, it can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the vulva, anus, vagina and penis. Two strains of HPV — both of which are covered in the vaccine — cause 70 percent of cervical cancers worldwide. CDC reports that four out of 10 girls remain unvaccinated against HPV, as do six out of 10 boys.

For a copy of the new HPV study, visit Pediatrics.

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.

Comments

  1. #1 dnj3forever
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    February 26, 2016

    This is a dangerous vaccine. A patient of my husbands, a young college student, developed gastroparesis shortly after the Gardasil series. Her colon just literally quit working and had to be removed. She has a tube venting her stomach and has to wear a bag. Her health has continued to deteriorate and she is now in hospice. She was a top athlete and student in high school. Another young lady I know developed rheumatoid arthritis and eosinophilic esophagitis shortly after Gardasil. Two of my nieces have been diagnosed with POTS and one a gastromotility disorder, and a friend of mine has 2 daughters with such heavy menstrual periods they are seeing gynecologists in their teens. But it is just all written off as “coincidence” or “better diagnosing. The risks just FAR outweigh any benefit of this vaccine.

  2. #2 rork
    February 27, 2016

    To commenter above: anecdotes are not data. Blinded placebo controlled trials of many thousands of women showed no effect. Young women going through puberty do have a certain number of issues, but that does not mean they are related to the vaccine. Get it?
    My extra plug: I do cancer research and have worked on Head and Neck cancers some, and they would be mentioned in every HPV article if I had my way. They are increasing, and mostly it’s cause of the increase in HPV-associated cancers, and mostly in men. We’ve been doing more fun dirty things with our mouths it seems. Other kinds of H+N cancer are mostly falling (we smoke less, for one). Any article about HPV should call for our young men to get vaccinated more. We need to do a better job with them, and with the young women. The Brits are blowing us away on up-take.

  3. #3 dnj3forever
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    February 29, 2016

    Damaged immune systems lead to increased rates of cancer…get it? What is self evident doesn’t require trust. And who could possibly trust any of the research coming out of the peer reviewed journals today? The fact is that never in the history of humanity have infants and children been subjected to injections of multiple pathogens, cellular debris/genetic material, toxic metals and compounds? The safety science is nonexistent. How can you possibly design a safety study to assess the adverse effects, both long and short term, of the combinations of all of these constituents ? There is simply not enough known about the immune system to assume that there are no negative consequences to bypassing major parts of this highly complex system that involves the gut, respiratory tract, and skin. Oh, and my husband is a hemonc doc, and he and the other docs trying to help this young lady believe there is an association between her illness and the vaccine.

  4. #4 dean
    United States
    February 29, 2016

    ” The safety science is nonexistent. ”

    Only to those too lazy, or too prejudiced, or too unable, to read and understand thousands of research articles.

    From your posts it is clear that you’ve made up your mind, based on some highly dubious stories, that vaccines are dangerous, and no amount of fact-based information will change your mind. Typical conspiracy/quackery monger.

  5. #5 dnj3forever
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    February 29, 2016

    From your posts, it’s clear you will believe any “science” regardless of the conflicts of interests involved and the motives of those conducting and funding the research trials. I actually believe that some vaccines might have a place for some people, but clearly not everyone. Science with a conscience is what I believe in. Along with many other scientists, I think the hpv vaccine is too dangerous for anyone to get, period. No one yet knows how it may upset the balance of the microbiota and allow perhaps more virulent strains of hpv to emerge. And by the way, it is apparent from your comment that you can’t carry on a meaningful discussion without resorting to name calling.
    I have said what I have to say. Have a great day!

  6. #6 dean
    United States
    February 29, 2016

    Science with a conscience is what I believe in.

    Strange, nothing you’ve said indicates you are a scientist or have a conscience.

    Along with many other scientists, I think the hpv vaccine is too dangerous for anyone to get, period.

    Based on fact, religious belief, or woo?

  7. #7 rork
    February 29, 2016

    How can a company cheat a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, dnj? The doctors at the institutions get to call who had an adverse event or not, and they don’t even know who got the real vax and who got placebo. You may think it’s too dangerous, but it appears that is not based on any data. Come on in and see some head+neck cancer victims – those people are not just me speculating about what might possibly happen in my fantasies. Just today, in my cancer center, I saw a list of the top 5 recent advances against cancer. HPV vax made the list.

  8. #8 JustaTech
    February 29, 2016

    I had the Gardasil vaccine in my early 20’s and I am fine, so that must negate one of the adverse events listed above, right?

    I also know people who had horribly heavy periods and had to see gynecologists but the HPV vaccine wasn’t even available yet.

    But the good thing is, dnj3forever, that you don’t have to get any HPV vaccine if you don’t want to!

  9. #9 rork
    February 29, 2016

    People can argue that people like me would want to make some vaxes mandatory (or else no health insurance coverage, for example), and that would be true. I may not get my way with tough public health though.