Wednesday, September 05, 2007



This vaccine against several strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) is recommended for girls and women under the age of 26. This group, when sexually active, is particularly vulnerable to the carcinogenic effects of certain HPV sub-types, particularly 16 and 18.

I have many women past 26 ask me if the shot would be appropriate for them as well. The problem, as women get older, is that they are more likely to have already been infected by these strains of HPV. Once exposed to 16 and 18, a recent study suggests that the vaccine is not particularly efficacious in improving the possibility that women can immunologically kick these bad actor HPV types out of their cervical cells.

Researchers* studied 2000 HPV-positive women in Costa Rica over a 12 month period. One group received the bivalent HPV-16/18 vaccine and the others received a control vaccine against an unrelated virus. Both groups developed acquired immunity against the virus at similar rates, suggesting that those who did mount an immune response were doing so under their own power without a boost from the vaccine.

This study emphasizes that there is an optimal time to vaccinate against this cancer-causing virus, and that is before exposure, i.e. before the onset of sexual activity.

Hildesheim et al. JAMA. 298, 743(2007).

1 comment:

Mauigirl said...

It amazes me that the right wing is actually against vaccinating young girls for this to prevent cancer, under the supposition that if girls thought they were immune to cancer they might have wanton promiscuous sex. As if worrying about getting cervical cancer 20 years later would have any effect on having sex right now for most girls! Worrying about being pregnant, a much more immediate problem, or getting AIDS, should certainly deter them more than worrying about cervical cancer. It's another ridiculous idea by the right wing.

Every young girl should get this shot!