Author: Mary Kekatos for dailymail.com
- HPV vaccines will now be administered in two doses instead of three
- The virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US
- But only 28% of boys and 42% of girls received the advised three doses in 2015
- Doctors hope the new guidelines increase the number of kids who get the shot
The HPV vaccine will now be administered in two doses instead of three, new guidelines declare. The new rules, published on Monday, come after years of campaigns from cancer experts insisting an easier schedule would encourage more people to protect themselves from the sexually-transmitted infection.
Human papillomavirus (or, HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, affecting around 79 million people. It has been linked to numerous cancers – including prostate, throat, head and neck, rectum and cervical cancer.
Experts claim more widespread vaccine coverage of middle school children could prevent 28,000 cancer diagnoses a year. Currently, fewer than half the children eligible for the vaccine – given out as three doses over six months – are covered. Experts blame the lengthy, arduous schedule.
The American Cancer Society today endorsed the updated recommendations, which were released by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Dr Debbie Saslow, Senior Director, HPV Related and Women’s Cancers for the American Cancer Society, said: ‘In the past several years, studies have shown the vaccine is even more effective than expected.
‘This new two-dose regimen is easier to follow, and we now know is very effective in preventing HPV, which is linked to a half dozen types of cancer.’
Each year, about 14 million people become newly infected with HPV. According to the CDC, each year about 19,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in women in the US, with cervical cancer being the most common. And about 8,000 cancers caused by HPV occur each year in men in the US and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers are the most common. Besides cervical cancer, HPV has been linked to vaginal, vulvar, oropharyngeal, anal, and penile cancers.
Despite strong evidence of safety and effectiveness, vaccination rates in the US remains very low compared to other countries. Only 28 percent of boys and 42 percent of girls aged 13 to 17 years receiving the recommended three doses in 2015. The skewed figures between genders are largely attributable to the fact that the jab was only offered to boys as a standard vaccine as of last year.
Previously, it was believed HPV was most strongly linked with cervical cancer in women. Research since has shown links with penile, anal, mouth, throat and other cancers in men. However, the gender divide does not fully account for the staggeringly low levels of coverage overall.
Despite the three vaccines that are widely available, the number who choose to be vaccinated remains low, and the age they wait to do so has increased. Only Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia require the vaccine for students.
In response to these figures last year, the ACIP, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted a thorough review of clinical trial data on HPV vaccines. They found that the vaccine in younger adolescents (aged nine to 14 years) produced an immune response similar or higher than the response in young adults (aged 16 to 26 years) who received three doses.
Generally, preteens receive the HPV vaccine at the same time as whooping cough and meningitis vaccines and it is administered before the likely chance of sexual contact.
The new schedule, approved by the FDA in October 2016, states that two doses of HPV vaccine given at least six months apart at ages 11 and 12 will provide ‘safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers’. Even adolescents between ages 13 and 14 are able to receive the HPV vaccination on the new two-dose schedule.
For patients who did not receive HPV vaccination before age 15, three doses are still required and may be given to females up to age 26 and males up to age 21.