The vaccine against cervical cancer that Fred Hutch helped develop is showing remarkable results
By Ignacio Lobos, Fred Hutch Editor of External Communications
Fred Hutch researchers played a pivotal role in the development of the human papillomavirus vaccine. And since its inception, they have often repeated a simple message that hasn’t always been heard: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate if you want to make a dent in infections in girls and women and prevent cervical cancer from taking more lives.
Today, the release of a new study shows the power of vaccination: Since the introduction of the vaccine in 2006, vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased 56 percent among female teenagers 14-19 years of age.
This latest bit of good news came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which lauded efforts to vaccinate more girls, but warned that much remains to be done.
“Today we have really good news,’’ CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told journalists during a media telebriefing. “The types of HPV, human papillomavirus, that commonly cause cervical cancer in women has dropped by about half in girls aged 14 to 19 since 2006 when we began routinely vaccinating against HPV.
“These are striking results. And I think they should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates because we can protect the next generation of adolescents and girls against cancer caused by HPV. The bottom line is this—it’s possible to protect the generations from cancer, and we’ve got to do it.
“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.”
According to the CDC, about 79 million Americans, most in their teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV, and about 14 million become infected each year. About 19,000 cancers caused by HPV affect women—with cervical cancer leading the way. However, HPV also causes cancer in men, about 8,000 each year, with throat cancer on the top of the list.
The CDC and other health organizations recommend routine vaccination at age 11-12 for both boys and girls. Yet, only half of all girls in the U.S. received the first dose of HPV vaccine, according to the CDC, and far fewer boys receive the vaccination. Experts recommend a series of three shots over six months.