A single dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may be the key to eliminating cervical cancer for good, according to new research published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
Human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) responsible for causing more than 95% of cervical cancer cases. Recent evidence evaluated by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) showed that a single dose of the HPV vaccine provided “comparable efficacy to the two- or three-dose regimens,” according to a WHO news release.
There were an estimated 604,000 new cases of cervical cancer that caused 342,000 deaths in 2020 alone, according to the WHO. It has become the fourth most common cancer for women globally, especially in low- to middle-income countries, where 90% of all new cases were recorded in 2020.
Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and almost entirely preventable, cervical cancer is a disease of inequity of access; the new SAGE recommendation is underpinned by concerns over the slow introduction of the HPV vaccine into immunization programs and overall low population coverage, especially in poorer countries.
More than 95% of cervical cancer is caused by sexually transmitted HPV, which is the fourth most common type of cancer in women globally with 90% of these women living in low- and middle-income countries.
“The HPV vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of HPV serotypes 16 & 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancer,” said Dr Alejandro Cravioto, SAGE Chair. “SAGE urges all countries to introduce HPV vaccines and prioritize multi-age cohort catch up of missed and older cohorts of girls. These recommendations will enable more girls and women to be vaccinated and thus preventing them from having cervical cancer and all its consequences over the course of their lifetimes.”
SAGE recommends updating dose schedules for HPV as follows: one or two-dose schedule for the primary target of girls aged 9-14, one or two-dose schedule for young women aged 15-20 and Two doses with a 6-month interval for women older than 21.
Immunocompromised individuals, including those with HIV, should receive three doses if feasible, and if not at least two doses. There is limited evidence regarding the efficacy of a single dose in this group.