HPV vaccine effective at reducing infection rates among teen girls

The human papillomavirus vaccine is significantly reducing vaccine-type HPV among U.S. teens, according to a recent study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

The study, which was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, vaccine-type HPV prevalence dropped 56 percent among female teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19. According to the CDC, approximately 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women annually in the U.S. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer caused by HPV.

Approximately 14 million people become newly infected each year with HPV in the U.S..

"This report shows that HPV vaccine works well, and the report should be a wake-up call to our nation to protect the next generation by increasing HPV vaccination rates," Tom Frieden, the CDC's director, said. "Unfortunately only one third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine. Countries such as Rwanda have vaccinated more than 80 percent of their teen girls. Our low vaccination rates represent 50,000 preventable tragedies - 50,000 girls alive today will develop cervical cancer over their lifetime that would have been prevented if we reach 80 percent vaccination rates. For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes."

Lauri Markowitz and her colleagues at the CDC used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare the prevalence of girls and women aged 14 to 59 years with certain types of HPV before and after the HPV vaccination program. The study showed the HPV vaccine is highly effective.

"The decline in vaccine type prevalence is higher than expected and could be due to factors such as to herd immunity, high effectiveness with less than a complete three-dose series and/or changes in sexual behavior we could not measure," Markowitz said. "This decline is encouraging, given the substantial health and economic burden of HPV-associated disease."

While the CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination at age 11 and 12 for both boys and girls, approximately half of girls in the U.S. and far fewer boys get the first dose of the HPV vaccine.