HPV vaccine cut infection by half in teen girls

FILE - A child health nurse holds up a vial and box for the HPV vaccine, brand name Gardasil, at a clinic in Kinston, N.C. on Monday March 5, 2012. A vaccine against a cervical cancer virus has cut infections in teen girls by half, according to a study released Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The study confirms research done before the HPV vaccine came on the market in 2006. But this is the first evidence of how well it works now that it is in general use. (AP Photo/Daily Free Press, Charles Buchanan)
FILE - A child health nurse holds up a vial and box for the HPV vaccine, brand name Gardasil, at a clinic in Kinston, N.C. on Monday March 5, 2012. A vaccine against a cervical cancer virus has cut infections in teen girls by half, according to a study released Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The study confirms research done before the HPV vaccine came on the market in 2006. But this is the first evidence of how well it works now that it is in general use. (AP Photo/Daily Free Press, Charles Buchanan)
Posted: June 21, 2013

ATLANTA - A vaccine against a cervical cancer virus has cut infections in teen girls by half, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study confirms research done before the HPV vaccine came on the market in 2006. But this is the first evidence of how well it works now that it is in general use.

"These are striking results, and I think they should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only about half of teen girls in this country have gotten at least one dose, and just a third of teen girls have had all three shots, according to the CDC.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The vaccine protects against certain types of the human papillomavirus that cause most cases of cervical cancer. The shots work best if given before someone is sexually active, so the emphasis has been on vaccinating 11- and 12-year-olds.

The new study, released online by the Journal of Infectious Diseases, compared infection rates in girls before and after the vaccine became available. In girls ages 14 to 19, the proportion infected with the targeted strains of HPV fell from about 12 percent to 5 percent, a reduction of 56 percent.

Among girls who had gotten the vaccine, the drop in HPV infections was higher - 88 percent.

There are two vaccines against HPV, but the study mainly reflects the impact of Gardasil, the Merck & Co. vaccine that came on the market in 2006. A second vaccine, approved in 2009 - GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix - probably had relatively little bearing on the results, said the CDC's Lauri Markowitz, the study's lead author.

Both vaccines are approved for females ages 9 to 26 and males ages 9 to 21. The vaccine was first recommended for boys in late 2011, and the CDC has not yet reported data on how many have gotten it. HPV vaccination requires three shots over six months.

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