HPV vaccine sends UK infection rates down

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine programme has led to significant reductions in the number of young women carrying potentially cancer-causing infections, a new Public Health England study shows.

The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV 16 and HPV 18 strains.

These infections decreased by 86 per cent in women aged 16 to 21 who were eligible for the vaccination as teenagers between 2010 and 2016, according to surveillance data from England.

The Public Health England (PHE) study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, suggests the vaccine programme could trigger future reductions in cervical cancer rates.

"These results are very promising and mean that in years to come we can expect to see significant decreases in cervical cancer, which is currently one of the biggest causes of cancer in women under 35," Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE, said.

"This 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 of this potentially life-saving vaccine."

The data shows declines across five high-risk HPV types in total, which cause around 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

It adds to a body of evidence which suggests the vaccine offers protection against other HPV types that can cause cervical cancer, PHE said.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "It is extremely positive to see the impact that the vaccination has had on prevalence of cervical cancer-causing HPV infection among vaccinated women.

The HPV vaccination programme was first introduced in 2008 and 80 per cent of people aged 15-to-24 have now been vaccinated in the UK.

It is available free on the NHS to all girls from the age of 12 until they turn 18.

Girls in England are routinely offered their first HPV vaccination when they are in year 8 of school. The second dose is offered six to 12 months later.

Australian Associated Press

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