A new study suggests that the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine has little to do with number of doses received.
The recommended series has always been two or three doses, but a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open suggests any dose is better then none.
Although it is too early for people to rely on a single dose, the results will lead to more studies and could pave the way for the vaccine to reach more people.
This could be life-saving.
The study looked at U.S. women ages 18 to 26 years old using 2009 to 2016 HPV vaccination and test survey data.
The study found that there was no significant difference between those receiving one dose, two dose, or three doses in contracting the disease.
Women who received one dose were just as protected as those receiving two or three. Women receiving any dose of the vaccine were less likely to contract HPV than women who were unvaccinated.
HPV, which stands for the human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer.
It accounts for 90% of all cervical and anal cancers, over 60% of all penile cancers, and around 70% of all oral cancers. It is spread through genital-to-genital or mouth-to-genital contact with someone who has the virus.
There are over 200 types of the virus and about 40 infect your genitals.
Genital HPV infections are extremely common and most sexually active people will get the disease at some point in their lives.
Currently about 80 million Americans, nearly one in four, have HPV. Most people won’t realize they’ve contracted it because it is often symptomless.
Two types of HPV cause genital warts, and although they are very uncomfortable, they can be easily removed by a doctor and luckily don’t lead to cancer.
HPV typically goes away in two years on its own. Most strains go away permanently without any medical treatment.
Although it is usually harmless, there are about a dozen strains of the virus, in particular types 16 and 18, that can lead to cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar or mouth and throat cancer.
Cancer can take years or decades to develop after the initial infection.
Although there are no tests to find out one’s HPV status and there is no cure for HPV, regular cancer and Pap tests can allow a doctor to catch the cancer in its early stages when it is treatable.
Cervical cancer screening is recommended for women over the age of 30, but currently there is no way to screen for HPV in men.
Early intervention is crucial, so if you notice any abnormal skin growths or changes in your genitals see a doctor immediately.
The most effective way to protect yourself from HPV is to get vaccinated. The vaccine, commonly known as Gardasil 9, protects against cancer-causing HPV strains 16 and 18, and types 6 and 11 which cause most genital warts.
The vaccine does not protect against all strains of the virus, which is why many who get the vaccine still end up becoming infected. The vaccine is successful at protecting against the cancer-causing HPV strains.
Vaccination is available for men and women ages 12 to 45. The CDC recommends the first dose for boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 and the second dose six to 12 months after the first.
Three shots over a six-month period is recommended for anyone 15 years or older. It’s most effective to get vaccinated between ages 12 and 26. Regardless of your age, talk to your doctor to see if the vaccine is right for you.
Currently, the biggest barriers preventing people from getting vaccinated are unawareness, lack of insurance coverage and professional recommendations, and medical costs.
“HPV vaccine coverage is less than 10% globally because of poor vaccine uptake rates in many resource-limited countries,” said the study’s senior author, Ashish Deshmukh, in a press release.
“Ensuring boys and girls receive their first dose is a big challenge in several countries and a majority of adolescents are not able to complete the recommended series due to a lack of intensive infrastructure needed to administer two or three doses.
If ongoing clinical trials provide evidence regarding sustained benefits of a one-dose regimen, then implications of single-dose strategy could be substantial for reducing the burden of these cancers globally.”
These finding, although still in clinical trials, could have a huge effect. If only one dose is needed, more populations globally will be able to afford getting the vaccine.