The Efficacy of the HPV Vaccine

The Development Of The HPV Vaccine

In June 2006, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval to the production and use of a vaccine designed to prevent four different types of HPV (human papillomavirus) in women. The vaccine targets two of the types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of cases of genital warts (types 6 and 11) and two HPV types (16 and 18) that cause cervical cancer. The name of the vaccine developed is Gardasil, which has been used in the United States. In Britain, a product called Cervarix has been developed and has been used there. However, in July of 2009, a British schoolgirl died immediately following an injection of Cervarix and an investigation to determine if Cervarix was the cause ensued.

Findings After Three Years of Use

The vaccine is only effective if administered in the absence of infection. It has been approved for girls and women from the ages of nine through 26 years of age. The vaccine is given at three intervals, 0, 1, and 6 months and the monitoring has occurred at just under the three-year mark after the third dose. The findings of the PATRICIA study, reported in The Lancet Medical Journal, shows that the HPV-16/18 ASO4-adjuvated vaccine (GlaxoSmithKline) has high efficacy against the precancerous cervical lesions that can eventually lead to cervical cancer. It has also been confirmed that the vaccine is also an effective form of protection against other cancer-causing HPV types that are closely related to types 16 and 18. There is also confirmation of the effectiveness of the vaccine as it relates to other strains of HPV that can be cancer producing.

What Is HPV?

HPV, human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease that is spread through genital contact and sexual skin-to-skin contact. In some cases, HPV can remain in a person's body without any display of symptoms and without causing any health problems. Conversely, and most frequently, HPV also manifests in the form of genital warts and some strains are linked to both cervical and penile cancers. While there is no cure for HPV, there are treatments for the many health problems that can arise from the disease.

Even though a person has HPV and does not have genital warts, they still can pass the virus on to another person who may develop warts. People who have been treated for genital warts can also pass the virus on to someone else. The time it takes to actually manifest genital warts may be anywhere from a few weeks to years and the virus remains in the body forever.

There Are Two Parts To The Equation

In an associated observation regarding the efficacy of the HPV vaccine, Dr. Karin B. Michels, of the Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Dr. Harald zur Hausen, of the German Cancer research Center, Heidelberg, Germany, write: "Currently, the targets for HPV vaccination are girls and young women aged 11 to 26 years prior to sexual debut. While good utilization of the program will reduce cervical cancer incidence in a couple of decades, this subgroup of the population at risk is too small to limit the spread of the virus. The only efficient way to stop the virus is to also vaccinate the other half of the sexually active population: boys and men."