It is known as the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., infecting millions of people each day and causing numerous forms of cancer in the process. When the first HPV vaccine was introduced back in 2006, many were skeptical that it would actually make a difference.
Now, however, the statistics seem to be looking better, with a much lower number of infections throughout the nation.
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that the HPV vaccine has managed to drastically reduce the spread of infection in teenage girls by nearly two-thirds.
The situation seems to be brighter even for women in their early 20s, with the most dangerous strains of the virus having been reduced by a third.
Nevertheless, the number of adolescents who get vaccinated against HPV is still small. According to researchers, only 40% of girls and 20% of boys aged between 13-17 are immunized.
The explanation for this is that this vaccine is generally associated with sexual activity among teens and not necessarily with cancer prevention.
For the purpose of this study, the researchers used a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That survey analyzed how prevalent the virus was among women and girls of various ages in the pre-vaccine years of 2003-2006.
The researchers discovered that over time the four strains of HPV covered through the vaccine were not so prevalent anymore. In fact, they had decreased by 64% in girls aged between 14-19.
A similar thing happened with women from 20-24 years old, who experienced a 34% decline in HPV infection.
According to Debbie Saslow, who is a public expert on HPV vaccination and cervical cancer, working at the American Cancer Society, the HPV vaccine seems to be far more effective than they originally thought.
Many health professionals now encourage parents to add the HPV vaccine along the other two that preteens usually receive.
Dr. Lauri E. Markowitz is a medical epidemiologist at the National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases and also the group leader for this study. He believes that primary care providers need to encourage this type of vaccination for preteens and that their recommendation could be of paramount importance, since it could lead to an increased vaccination coverage.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are around 14 million Americans who become infected with this virus each year, many of them continuing to develop genital warts, cervical, anal, mouth and throat cancer.
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