HPV Vaccine Success

Researchers have calculated a substantial decrease in instances of HPV related genital warts in Australia, thanks to their successful HPV immunization campaign, which started in 2007. Girls in Australia, between the ages of 12 and 18, have been receiving the vaccine at schools all over the continent since then and, seven years later, it is thought to have decreased the instances of genital warts by 61% among young women who are between the ages of 15 and 27. The study examined data gathered between 2000 and 2012 from over one million patient- doctor/ clinic encounters. More than 70% of 15 year old girls have had the full three doses of the vaccination already with success. Furthermore, the rate of other sexually transmitted infections did not fall over this time, so, these results are most definitely down to the vaccine.

HPV can be contracted by both men and women and can cause both genital warts and cervical cancer in women. It can also cause oropharyngeal cancers in women and men which include, cancer of the pharynx, throat and mouth, and, anal and penile cancer in men. Rates of HPV cancers are rising on an ongoing basis and yet, only young girls are being vaccinated here in Europe. There are no results available from Australia on decreasing rates of genital warts in boys at the moment because the immunization program has not been running as long as it has for the girls there. However, it can’t be long before we see positive results from males too. A campaign has been started in the UK to get this implemented here. 

In other countries around the world it is thought that, via herd immunity, men will eventually become immunized against this virus. Not only will this take more time in terms of immunization, it also leaves out the homosexual population who are at the highest risk of HPV related cancers as it stands. Currently, the vaccine is available for gay men between the ages of 22 and 26, but, considering the vaccine is thought to only work pre-exposure to the virus, i.e, before sexual intercourse is ever engaged in, how does this really benefit gay men? Is it simply too late?

The vaccine is expensive and so a large governmental investment would be necessary in order for Europe to begin a similar immunization program. But surely the money spent on treating genital warts and HPV related cancers could better be spent on vaccinating both sexes between the ages of 12 and 18 here? The program is already proving to be a great success in Australia, (it is worth noting that the scientist who developed the basic technology behind the HPV vaccine is Ian Frazer, an Australian resident), and hopefully this will be an incentive to other countries who are currently only vaccinating young girls. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the States has recommended, since 2011, that both boys and girls are vaccinated. As a result, more boys than ever before are being vaccinated but this number is still not as high as it could be. Huge financial investment is necessary, but considering rising HPV related cancer rates, it seems like we’re just ignoring a very simple solution due to costs. I look forward to seeing the results of the boys HPV vaccination program in Australia soon and hopefully the vaccines cost effectiveness will become apparent.