Single dose of HPV vaccine enough?

If there were a way to wipe out cervical cancer, would you take the time to do it?

If there were a way to wipe out cervical cancer, would you take the time to do it? There is, in fact, a vaccine that is able to prevent most types of cervical cancer, but studies show barely half of those who would benefit most get even one dose of the three-dose regimen.

A new study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, found that even one dose of a vaccine called Cervarix produced antibodies against the human papillomavirus (HPV) up to four years later. Women who had two doses had nearly the same protection as women who took all three of the recommended shots.

This study was done in Costa Rica involving approximately 500 women. Some received one dose of Cervarix, protecting them from two strains of HPV linked to cervical cancer. Others received two doses, and the third group got all three shots. When compared with women who didn’t get any HPV vaccinations, Cervarix was still active four years later.

The study has shortcomings, however, according to the American Cancer Society. It didn’t include a large number of women and it didn’t use the HPV vaccine most widely used in the U.S., Gardasil. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 54 percent of American girls and young women got one dose of Gardasil. Only 33 percent got all three recommended doses.

Nearly 4,000 women in the U.S. die from cervical cancer every year. Routine Pap smears, part of a regular gynecological exam, can detect cervical cancer early. In many parts of the world, however, where access to medical care is limited, cervical cancer goes undetected. Worldwide, 275,000 women die from cervical cancer every year. If the results of this study hold up, it could be a huge benefit for women in terms of cost and follow-through.


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