9 May 2018
The Cochrane Library has published a review examining the safety and effectiveness of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine in protecting against cervical lesions in young women. In response to this review, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement.
Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:
“Today’s publication of the Cochrane Library review into the effectiveness and safety of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine paints a reassuring picture, highlighting the huge public health benefits that this vaccine offers to young women.
“This very comprehensive review found that the HPV vaccine protects against pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, particularly when given to women aged 15–26. It also finds that, so far, the vaccine causes no serious side-effects. This is very important to emphasise: the negative press that the vaccine has received in some countries is completely unfounded on evidence. The fact that we now have a vaccine that can safely reduce the likelihood of women developing cervical lesions (which often lead to cervical cancer) should be greeted with the highest level of enthusiasm.
“Although the HPV vaccine was originally introduced to prevent cervical cancer in women, it’s now recognised that human papilloma virus can cause a number of other diseases in both sexes (which aren’t included in this review) such as genital warts and some other cancers, including those of the anus and some types of mouth and throat cancer. These cancers are rarer than cancer of the cervix, but are really important to prevent too. While this review only concentrates on the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in relation to cervical lesions, we need to remember that it may confer additional health benefits outside the scope of this review.
“Vaccines are among the most effective methods we have to prevent disease. The introduction of the HPV vaccine in the UK in 2008 represented a major step forward in public health, protecting future generations from developing cervical cancer.
“The British Society for Immunology celebrates the huge health benefits that this vaccine delivers. It is now crucial that we redouble efforts to ensure that HPV vaccination rates in girls remain high and that we continue to actively communicate the benefits of this vaccine to parents and children.”
The full review that this statement is in response to can be found at: Arbyn et al. Prophylactic vaccination against human papillomaviruses to prevent cervical cancer and its precursors. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD009069. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009069.pub3