As the number of teenage girls with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) dropped by half in recent years in America, the HPV vaccine is being hailed a clear success. The vaccination campaign for girl was only introduced in America in 2006, and provides protection against a virus which is the most common Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) in the US and is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

The fall in infection rates comes despite the fact that only about a third of teenage girls have been vaccinated, compared with countries such as Britain which have vaccination rates of over 80%. Infection with the viral strains responsible for cervical cancer amongst girls ages 14 to 19 dropped from 7.2% in 2006 to 3.6% in 2010.

“These are striking results,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA. “They should be a wake-up call that we need to increase vaccination rates. The bottom line is this: It is possible to protect the next generation from cancer, and we need to do it.”

Current vaccination rates in the United States would prevent 45,000 cases of cervical cancer and an estimated 14,000 deaths amongst girls currently 13 or younger over the course of their lifetimes, the CDC estimates. If this rate were increased to 80 percent, as seen in Britain, another 53,000 cancer cases and nearly 17,000 deaths could also be prevented.

In the UK all girls aged 12 and 13 are offered the Gardasil HPV vaccination used in the USA free of charge, which will save an estimated 400 lives a year. The vaccine protects against HPV types-6 and HPV-11 which cause genital warts, and HPV types-16 and HPV-18 which cause around 70% of cervical cancers. In the UK, the annual number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer is 2,900.

But experts are still urging as many people as possible to get the vaccine, whether male or female, as HPV can also cause health problems in men such as throat cancer. If only girls are vaccinated then communities such as the gay community are still left exposed and vulnerable to HPV.

Better2Know provides the HPV vaccination at a time and place to suit you, with clinics across the UK, some operating out of hours. The more protection you have, the better, and every vaccine makes a valuable contribution to reducing cervical cancer.

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