Teenagers who haven’t had the cervical cancer vaccine have still benefited from its introduction, as there are now fewer cases of the cancer causing infection, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), being diagnosed.
According to a study by a team at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, USA a ‘herd immunity’ effect occurs in areas where the vaccine has been administered. In Cincinnati, the jab was found to benefit the whole teen community, and not just those who opted to have the injection.
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In 2006 and 2007, the researchers at Cincinnati Children's recruited 368 young women between the ages of 13 and 16 for HPV vaccines.
Then, in 2009 and 2010, they recruited a different group of 409 young women in the same age range. More than half of these girls had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The rate of HPV virus targeted by the vaccine decreased by 58 per cent overall, from 31.7 per cent to 13.4 per cent.
There was a 69 per cent decrease in the HPV virus among vaccinated participants - but there was also a 49 per cent drop in those who were unvaccinated.
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"Infection with the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine decreased in vaccinated young women by 69 per cent,” said Dr Jessica Kahn, a physician in the division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and lead author of the study.
"Two of these HPV types, HPV-16 and HPV-18, cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancer. Thus, the results are promising in that they suggest that vaccine introduction could substantially reduce rates of cervical cancer in this community in the future.”
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Despite this reduction in HPV rates, Dr Kahn stresses the importance of having all young women vaccinated to maximise the effects of the jab. Nearly one in four teens have caught at least one strain of HPV in the US.
Girls in England were offered the jab in 2008, with figures revealing nine out of ten have had the HPV vaccine. At least four million doses of the jab have been given since September 2008.
For more information about the HPV vaccine in the UK, visit the NHS website.