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HPV vaccination programmes - expert comment

New research looking at the impact of HPV vaccination programmes and published today in The Lancet finds that they have substantial impact in reducing HPV infections and precancerous cervical lesions. 

The results of the study provide strong evidence of HPV vaccination working to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings as both the cause (HPV infection) and precancerous cervical lesions are declining. The findings have implications for policy makers around the world as they back the recently revised WHO position on vaccinating multiple age groups rather than a single cohort when introducing the vaccine.

Responding to the findings, Mark Jit, Professor of Vaccine Epidemiology at LSHTM, whose work has included informing immunisation policy on the HPV vaccine, said:

“Melanie Drolet has worked with investigators from 14 countries that have monitored the impact that HPV vaccination has had since it was introduced. Theirs is the most comprehensive study of this nature ever published. By converting all the data into a standard format and pooling it, they have convincingly shown how successful these programmes have been everywhere they are being monitored. The proportion of people infected with HPV and the proportion who have high-grade lesions which are precursors to cervical cancer has plummeted. The largest reductions are in places like Scotland which had very high vaccine coverage and which introduced vaccination by targeting many age groups at the same time.

“However, the researchers weren’t able to include any studies from low- and middle-income countries, which experience the highest burden of cervical cancer. This is both because these countries have been slower to introduce HPV vaccination, and also because surveillance systems in these countries are often inadequate to conduct these kinds of studies.

“If we are to realise the dream of eliminating cervical cancer, then we will need to ensure that our limited supplies of vaccines are prioritised to the countries that need them the most.”