Did you know that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States? Earning much more attention over the last decade, that may not come as a surprise anymore.
What may still seem staggering are the current HPV statistics in the U.S.
Over one decade after the HPV vaccine was introduced, almost 80 million Americans still have the disease. That includes the 14 million people newly-diagnosed with the virus every year. The virus is even on the rise for women over the age of 40.
For a disease that’s been shown many times to be a contributing factor to cervical cancer, those are some dangerous statistics.
Although, since the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, came out in 2006, research suggests that the vaccine has lowered HPV infections. Those lower HPV rates reduces the chance for a woman being diagnosed with cervical cancer. In the U.S., girls, as young as 8-years-old, and boys, as young as 9-years-old can be given the vaccine, even before they are sexually active.
Researchers claim that by administering the HPV vaccine, the rate of cervical cancer is declining. A recent study published in The Lancet a few weeks ago further looked into that trend.
What Have Recent Studies Shown for the HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer?
Scientists evaluated data from research of 47 studies that spanned February 2014 – October 2018.
In other studies, they compared documentation before and after vaccination during an 8-year period. Researchers from two North American countries, the U.S. and Canada, helped with the study. Other “high-income” countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and various others from the European Union also took place in the study.
Based on the available information, the researchers, as well as scientists, concluded that HPV infections were reduced by 75% in girls from 13-24 years-old. Precancerous cervical lesions also saw a massive reduction during this time. Teenage girls experienced a 51% drop in the lesions. Women between the ages of 20-24 saw a similar drop, with 31% less precancerous cervical lesions.
The studies also showed that genital warts, one of the first symptoms of the herpes virus, declined as well. With these results, more testing is underway for a more effective vaccine that targets more varieties of the virus.
How Does this Change the Future of the HPV Vaccine?
Soon after these results became public, some changes were on the way for the vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to expand HPV vaccine recommendation for men to the age of 26. While HPV is sexually transmitted, men can spread the virus without sexual intercourse. They also now recommend adults without the immunization between the ages of 27 and 45 should receive the vaccine.
While the vaccine offers many benefits for adults, experts still encourage people receive it when younger.
The CDC still recommends all children receive the HPV vaccine at the ages of 11 or 12.
Written for Passport Health by Sabrina Cortes. Sabrina is a freelance writer with a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgian Court University. She currently lives in the Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina.