Should we be rethinking the HPV vaccination strategy?

Infectious Thoughts

Siouxsie Wiles Jun 22

A study just published in the Lancet suggests that Australia’s cervical cancer vaccination programme is already showing signs of success, with a decrease in the number of high-grade cervical abnormalities in vaccinated girls under 18.

To quickly recap, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection which causes cervical cancer in women. A number of countries, including NZ, now vaccinate girls from the age of 12 against the most common HPV types. There are currently two vaccines on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix.

Débora Miranda recently wrote about the plight of women with cervical cancer in Africa. Apparently more than 1 in 5 cases of cervical cancer are in women in developing countries, which lack the screening programmes we have access to. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) recently announced that Merck offered a 67% reduction in the current public price of their Gardasil vaccine, to $5. Merck also support the Gardasil access programme having pledged to donate 3 million doses of Gardasil to low income countries.

But why are only girls vaccinated? HPV can also cause a variety of cancers in men, including anal cancer and a subset of penile and oral cancers. In fact, in the developed world, the number of HPV-related cancers in men is similar to that of cervical cancer in women.

I was recently chatting with Daniel Keogh, aka Professor Funk, who paid to get himself vaccinated and produced a fantastic video encouraging young men to do the same.

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