Australia was one of the first countries to provide the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to women for free. This immunization program was started in April 2007 and was introduced by the Australian Government in both schools and communities. The program provides the quadrivalent HPV vaccine, which protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18, for girls and women age 12-26. Types 16 and 18 are two major viral causes of cervical cancer, while types 6 and 11 are two major viral causes of genital warts.
A study recently published in thejournal PLOS One revealed that since the start of the free vaccine program, cases of genital warts in young women reported by general practitioners have dropped by an astounding 61%. Christopher Harrison, the study s lead author, and colleagues from the University of Sydney reviewed more than a million patient encounters with almost 12,000 general practitioners between 2000 and 2012. Rates of genital warts among women ages 15-27 decreased from 4.33 per 1,000 encounters in the pre-program period (from 2002-2006) to 1.57 per 1,000 encounters in the post-program period (from 2008-2012).
Harrison and colleagues note that there was no reduction in other sexually transmitted infections in the study period, therefore attributing the reduction in genital warts cases to the vaccine program. The authors conclude, This study provides evidence that the quadrivalent HPV vaccination program has led to a decreased management rate of genital warts in general practice among those women of vaccine-eligible age.
ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: What a tremendous boon to public health the HPV vaccine has already proven to be, and how much more so would it be if the vaccine were more widely accepted here in the U.S. Of course, price is one of the major obstacles to increased uptake here, and the Australians have passed-over that issue by distributing it gratis what a great idea, although I doubt if Merck and GSK, makers of the two vaccines, would agree. Here s another shocking concept: boys as well as girls should be getting this cancer-and-STI-prevention vaccine. HPV is spread through sexual exposure, and it takes two to tango why are only females targeted (although boys have recently been included in the official advisories, belatedly). If HPV was eradicated in boys and men, guess what? No females would get it either, or very few anyway.