Thursday July 18, 2019

Cervical Cancer Vaccines Show Major Impact on Stopping Infections

Britain’s GSK makes an HPV vaccine called Cervarix that targets two strains of the virus

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vaccine preventable diseases
WHO projects fewer children in Africa are likely to receive life-saving vaccines in the coming decades. VOA

Vaccination against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancer is having a major impact on stopping infections and should significantly reduce cases of the disease within a decade, researchers said Wednesday.

Presenting results of an international analysis covering 60 million people in high-income countries, scientists from Britain and Canada said they found “strong evidence” that vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) works “to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings.”

“We’re seeing everything that we’d want to see. We’re seeing reductions in the key HPV infections that cause most cervical disease, and we’re seeing reductions in cervical disease,” said David Mesher, principal scientist at Public Health England, who worked on the research team.

Marc Brisson, a specialist in infectious disease health economics at Canada’s Laval University who co-led the study, said the results suggested “we should be seeing substantial reductions in cervical cancer in the next 10 years.”m

Cervical Cancer, Vaccines, Infections
Vaccination against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancer is having a major impact. Pixabay

Vaccines in 100 countries

HPV vaccines were first licensed in 2007 and have since been adopted in at least 100 countries worldwide. Britain’s GSK makes an HPV vaccine called Cervarix that targets two strains of the virus, while Merck makes a rival shot, Gardasil, which targets nine strains.

In countries with HPV immunization programs, the vaccines are usually offered to girls before they become sexually active to protect against cervical and other HPV-related cancers.

Brisson’s team gathered data on 60 million people over eight years from 65 separate studies conducted in 14 countries and pooled it to assess the vaccines’ impact.m

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They found that the two HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancers, known as HPV 16 and HPV 18, were significantly reduced after vaccination, with an 83% decline in infections in girls ages 13 to 19 and a 66% drop in women ages 20 to 24 after five to eight years of vaccination.

Figures released in February by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer showed an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2018, making it the fourth most common cancer in women globally.

Poorer countries could benefitm

Cervical Cancer, Vaccines, Infections
HPV vaccines were first licensed in 2007 and have since been adopted in at least 100 countries worldwide. Pixabay

Each year, more than 310,000 women die from cervical cancer, the vast majority of them in poorer countries where HPV immunization coverage is low or non-existent.

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Brisson urged governments in the most-affected countries to take note: “Our results show the vaccines are working, so I hope in the upcoming years we will … see rates of HPV vaccination increase in countries that need it most,” he said. (VOA)

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Richer Countries Show Lower Trust in Vaccines

A global survey by the British health research charity Wellcome found that about 8 in 10 people

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vaccine preventable diseases
WHO reports Nigeria, India and Pakistan have the lowest vaccination rates. VOA

The majority of people worldwide think vaccines are safe but the doubters make it impossible to win the war on preventable illnesses.

A global survey by the British health research charity Wellcome found that about 8 in 10 people, or 79%, agreed that vaccines are safe, and 9 in 10 worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.

But in order to protect whole populations, immunization coverage rates must generally be above 90% or 95%, according to the World Health Organization.

The survey asked more than 140,000 people in 140 countries about their attitudes toward science and medicine.

Vaccines, Worldwide, Safe
The majority of people worldwide think vaccines are safe but the doubters make it impossible to win the war. Pixabay

It found that in wealthier nations, where rates of infectious diseases are low, people tend to be more skeptical about the safety of vaccines. While in poorer countries people believe vaccines to be safe, effective and important for children.

France led the list of countries with the most skeptics. A third of French people do not agree that immunization is safe, by contrast 98% of those in Bangladesh believe that vaccines are both safe and effective.

“And in some of these regions, greater scientific knowledge or levels of education is actually associated with less confidence in vaccines,” the report says. “This suggests that putting out more scientific information, or trying to educate more people, will not be enough to change minds on this issue.”

In North America, just 72% of those surveyed said vaccines were safe. The numbers were even lower in Europe — 59% in Western Europe and 40% in Eastern Europe.

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“Anxieties and public concerns about the safety of vaccines have always existed, but the rise of social media has allowed the spread of what UNICEF calls the ‘real infection of misinformation’ to much wider audiences,” the report says.

Vaccines have been credited for completely ridding the world of small pox and coming close to eliminating other diseases, such as polio.

But other illnesses are making a resurgence. In the U.S. alone, the number of measles cases this year has exceeded a thousand.

“I guess you could call it the ‘complacency effect,'” said Wellcome’s Imran Khan, who led the study. (VOA)