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University of Miami pediatrician, Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Preventable suffering

HPV vaccine could wipe out cervical cancer by 2100

February 20, 2019

New research shows that cervical cancer, a disease that currently kills 300,000 women globally each year, could be effectively eliminated by the end of the century with increased vaccine coverage.

The vast majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease whose cancer- and genital wart-causing variants are preventable through vaccination. According to research published in the journal Lancet Oncology, 600,000 women will contract cervical cancer in 2020. By 2069, that number will rise to 1.3 million per year if nothing is done. But with high vaccine and screening coverage, the study found, the global caseload could be reduced to less than four cases per 100,000 women by the year 2100, effectively eliminating the disease.

Last year, the director of the World Health Organization called on nations to build up their vaccination programs. But those efforts have been hampered by logistical and financial challenges, as well as public fears about the vaccine.

Documentary films purporting to link the HPV vaccine to symptoms caused by chronic fatigue syndrome were debunked by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, but not before vaccination rates plummeted in Denmark and Ireland as a result. Disturbing instances of what appear to be psychosomatic reactions have also been reported. In 2014, 600 girls in Colombia who took the vaccine were treated for fainting and twitching.  Such episodes have led nations like Japan to stop proactively recommending the vaccine. But experts insist it is extremely safe, and that unfounded fears about vaccination could cause an entirely unnecessary health crisis among women.

“It is one of the best vaccines we have,” Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, told The Guardian. “Hostility and fear has potential to delay the effective implementation of lifesaving vaccines. We must be very clear about this: millions of women can be spared unnecessary, terrible suffering if HPV vaccines can be effectively deployed and scaled up globally.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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