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June 20, 2013 9:09 AM This Is Why We Vaccinate, HPV Edition

By Aaron Carroll

File this under “holy crap”. “Reduction in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Prevalence Among Young Women Following HPV Vaccine Introduction in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2003-2010“:

Background. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination was introduced into the routine immunization schedule in the United States in late 2006 for females aged 11 or 12 years, with catch-up vaccination recommended for those aged 13-26 years. In 2010, 3-dose vaccine coverage was only 32% among 13-17 year-olds. Reduction in the prevalence of HPV types targeted by the quadrivalent vaccine (HPV-6, -11, -16, and -18) will be one of the first measures of vaccine impact.
Methods. We analyzed HPV prevalence data from the vaccine era (2007-2010) and the prevaccine era (2003-2006) that were collected during National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. HPV prevalence was determined by the Linear Array HPV Assay in cervicovaginal swab samples from females aged 14-59 years; 4150 provided samples in 2003-2006, and 4253 provided samples in 2007-2010.

I’ve written about HPV, and the vaccine that prevents it here and here and here and here. Still, I get email about how it’s a government plot, or how it’s unnecessary, or how vaccination won’t do any good.

This study looked at the prevalence of HPV among women and girls in the three years before the HPV vaccine was introduced (2003-2006) and the three years after it was introduced (2007-2010). The results are shocking. Just looking at adolescent girls age 14-19 years old, the prevalence of HPV covered by the vaccine fell from 11.5% before 2006 to 5.1% after. That’s a drop of more than 50%. And before any skeptics weigh in, there was no difference in the racial/ethnicity of the samples before and after the vaccine, nor any differences in sexual activity.

These results (which were amazing even to me) came about even though only about a third of girls age 13-17 had received all three doses of the vaccine in 2010. Imagine what we could accomplish if we got that number closer to 100%. Cue Tom Frieden, director of the CDC:

“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% vaccination rates,” he said. “For every year we delay in doing so, another 4400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes.”

Vaccinate your girls against HPV. Vaccinate your boys, too.

[Originally posted at The Incidental Economist]

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Aaron Carroll ,MD, is an associate professor of Pediatrics and the associate director of Childrens Health Services Research at Indiana University School of Medicine.