WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A vaccine introduced more than a decade ago is having a significant impact at stopping a sexually transmitted virus. Gardasil is used as a preventive measure against the human papillomavirus or HPV. A new study is out that measures the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Researchers tracked more than 1,500 teens and young women from 2006 to 2017. It found a significant drop in HPV among women who got the vaccine and even those who didn’t because their sexual partners did. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, now even older adults are encouraged to be vaccinated.
“This vaccine is extremely safe and very effective,” said Commonwealth Health OB-GYN Physician Lynne Coslett-Charlton, MD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended for years Gardasil be given to children as young as nine and adults as old as 26. “And over the past several months there’s actually been an expansion of that age range so we’re giving to men and women up to age 45,” said Dr. Coslett-Charlton.
The reason, she said, is because of evidence showing Gardasil makes a huge difference at warding off sexually transmitted HPV infections. Targeting at first four and then six types of HPV, the vaccine has evolved in recent years to what’s now considered the gold standard: Gardasil 9. “So, we’re covering between 80 and 90 percent now of HPV’s in that vaccine. There’s 60 types of HPV’s so no vaccine can cover all 60 types so you want to get the most prevalent types that are going to do the most harm.”
While there’s been growing use of the vaccine in the U-S, it’s not nearly at the level of so many other countries — something Dr. Coslett-Charlton considers unfortunate. About 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer each year. A third of them will lose that battle. Dr. Coslett-Charlton said, “I remember as a resident a 30-year-old young mother dying from cervical cancer and it just kills you because it’s one of those things that is so preventable.”
Another disease which Gardasil can help prevent? Head and neck cancers that develop in middle-aged men. Dr. Coslett-Charlton said, “There should be no cases and hopefully someday we’ll see that there’s no cases.”
Besides receiving the Gardasil vaccination, Dr. Coslett-Charlton says testing and early detection are key since cervical, head and neck cancers often show up after the cancer is advanced.