The first study to effectively demonstrate the impact of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination on cervical cancer incidence has been recently published in the Lancet. The English HPV vaccination program, in which girls were vaccinated between the ages of 12–13, reduced the risk of developing cervical cancer by 87% in women ages 20–30, compared to an unvaccinated cohort.
The study also demonstrated a 97% drop in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia III (CIN3) pre-cancerous changes to cells in the same cohort. Previous studies have shown vaccination reduces cervical HPV infections and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), which are precursors of cervical cancer.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection, and this study demonstrates cervical cancer to be a vaccine-preventable disease. With more than 13,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in the UK in 2020, the effect of vaccination on incidence is expected to be substantial over the coming decades as vaccinated individuals reach the age of cervical cancer risk.
While HPV vaccination rates are high in some countries, for example 80% or more in the UK and Australia, in other countries, vaccine uptake is poor, with less than 20% uptake in France and less than 1% uptake in Japan.
Countries including the US, Italy, and Germany have reported a 40–50% uptake. Vaccine uptake in Japan fell from over 70% to under 1% after false claims of adverse events related to vaccination were reported in the media; the public health authority subsequently withdrew their recommendation for the HPV vaccine.
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData identified increasing HPV vaccine uptake as the most effective way of reducing cervical cancer morbidity and mortality. Reasons cited by KOLs for vaccine hesitancy include inadequate public health campaigns, stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases, poor education, and religious beliefs. It is hoped that the vaccine efficacy demonstrated by this study will result in increased uptake.