June 01, 2007
HPV and Cervical Cancer Vaccine
The debate about whether to use the new HPV vaccine to cut rates of cervical cancer seems to have arrived in the UK:
The vaccine protects women against the common human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes 70% of cervical cancers. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is due to meet in three weeks to continue its discussion of whether to recommend the vaccination.
The study finds that it protects against 99% of infections in women who have never had sex before vaccination and has a 44% protection rate in those who are sexually active and likely to have been exposed to an HPV virus. Around 1,000 women die a year in the UK from cervical cancer.
This is from memory but I think it only protects against three or four of the more than 40 possible types...but those three or four are the most likely to cause cervical cancer. Contrary to what we were saying yesterday about smoking, I think this is a clear case of, in the long term, it saving the NHS money. Not so much the treatment of those 1,000 women a year who die from the cancer (vaccinating half the population might cost more than the value of those lives saved and no, I've not done the sums, I simply put it forward as a possibility) but rather, in a couple of generations' time, making the screening process unneccessary: those three yearly Pap smears will no longer be needed.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has rejected vaccinating boys for this reason but is considering whether it would be worth it if it eradicated genital warts, another consequence of some HPV viruses.
That makes further sense to me (from a layman's point of view, of course) and then there's also the further benefit, not as yet mentioned, that it should in time bring down throat cancer rates.
People who have had more than five oral-sex partners in their
lifetime are 250% more likely to have throat cancer than those who do
not have oral sex, a new study suggests.
The researchers believe this is because oral sex may transmit human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus implicated in the majority of cervical cancers.
Not vaccinating boys leaves open the possibility that such infections will persist as a sexual orientation specific one, amongst the homosexual population. Not something to be desired.
One thing to be welcomed is that (as yet, I've certainly not seen it) we don't have the lunatic religious fringe arguing that the vaccine should not be given because it will encourage people to have sex, as has happened in the US. In fact, has anyone seen any opposition to the vaccine over here?
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Tracked on Jun 16, 2007 8:38:30 PM
There have been a couple of stories about objectors in the UK press. Can't recall the names at present.
Posted by: Alastair | Jun 1, 2007 9:10:24 AM
I for one support the vaccine.
The US religious fringe have a very scary logic. It is as if they like the choices of people to commit perceived vices as being between a life of abstinence and a horrible death, e.g. AIDS, Cancer. If we could solve the dangers of smoking at source without denying the activity then surely that would be ideal. The same with sexual congress, eliminate the STDs, the dangers, not the whole activity. By all means encourage people to behave responsibly but not by hoping for a lethal aspect to the equation, not when science is giving us other alternatives.
Of course I'm biased, reading those statistics you quote, I'm surprised I'm not dead already.
Posted by: Philip Thomas | Jun 1, 2007 9:33:09 AM
Actually, there have been multiple stories in the UK press covering objections to the HPV vaccine on the grounds that it will encourage young women to have sex - dating back from September of last year.
The objections have primarily come from the Catholic Church, and "family rights campaigners," including the National Family Campaign.
As it happens, I've been writing about the vaccine quite a lot.
Posted by: bookdrunk | Jun 1, 2007 12:01:25 PM