The vaccine we use to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in teens and adults was developed not to prevent genital warts (which are common and difficult and often painful to treat) but to prevent cancer (specifically cervical, anal, and oral cancers). New statistics show that the vaccine is highly effective in preventing genital warts. Charles Bankhead does the numbers:
The incidence of genital warts declined by more than 90% in adolescent and teenage girls in the first 4 to 5 years after introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in Australia, investigators reported.
Genital warts occurred more than 70% less often among women 21 to 30, as compared with the 3 to 4 years before the vaccine became available. The reductions in wart incidence among girls and women were accompanied by 50% to 80% decreases in the incidence of genital warts among heterosexual boys and young men.
Concerning the incidence of HPV-associated cancers:
“It remains to be seen whether we will see similar dramatic reductions in HPV-16 and HPV-18 associated diseases, such as cervical cancer, vulval cancer, other anogenital cancers, and head and neck tumors as a result of national vaccination programs,” wrote Simon Barton, MD, of the Chelsea and Westminster Foundation Trust in London, and Colm O’Mahony, MD, of the Countess of Chester Trust in Chester, England.
“This is likely given the reported evidence of the vaccines. It is hoped that future vaccines will protect against other HPV types, such as types 31 and 45, which are also involved in the genesis of genital cancer.
More posts about HPV vaccine on The PediaBlog here.