The HPV vaccine, given to adolescents to protect themselves from cancer, reduces the risk of premature birth in pregnant women, suggests a new study.
Vaccination protects against the human papillomavirus, a group of viruses that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
But Australian researchers say it could have additional benefits by lowering the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes (APO) in vaccinated women.
National statistics suggest that the vaccine has prevented more than 2,000 premature births in Australia since it was introduced for school children in the country in 2007.
Researchers said it had reduced the risk of preterm births in Australia by more than 3% and the births of babies smaller than normal by almost 10%.
The study has implications for the new generation of mothers in the UK, who started receiving the vaccine a year after Australia.
In the UK, the HPV vaccine has been routinely offered to girls ages 12 to 13 since 2008, but only to boys the same age as of September of last year.
HPV, human papillomavirus virus, shown here as a 3D render, is the name given to a group of common viruses that are transmitted through close skin contact.
“These results add to the weight of evidence behind the benefits of the HPV vaccine,” said Professor Karen Canfell, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Sydney and director of cancer research at the NSW Cancer Council.
“In addition to preventing cervical and other HPV-related cancers, these results show that the vaccine could also play an important role in reducing the rates of adverse pregnancy outcomes and improving the quality of life for many women and children around the world. “
Human papillomavirus infection, transmitted through intimate contact, is known to cause the majority of cervical cancers, as well as some cancers of the mouth and throat, and cancers of the anal and genital areas.
The HPV vaccine is now given to all girls and boys in the 8th school year and protects mainly against four strains of the disease known to be linked to cervical cancer and genital warts (stock image)
THE HPV VACCINE: HOW IT WORKS
The HPV vaccination program in the UK and Australia uses a vaccine called Gardasil.
The vaccine is made from tiny proteins that look like the outside of the real human papillomavirus (HPV).
It also contains aluminum, sodium chloride (salt), water, L-histidine, polysorbate 80 and borax, to stimulate the immune system and keep the vaccine stable and suitable for injection. .
The vaccine does not contain any live virus, or even any virus or DNA killed by the virus, so it cannot cause cancer or other HPV-related diseases.
When the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies in response to the protein to eliminate it from the body.
If a person is then exposed to the real virus, the same antibodies can prevent it from entering the body’s cells, giving them immunity.
The virus hides in the basal cells below the surface of the skin or mucous membranes.
There are over 100 different types of viruses, many of which live safely on the body.
However, a small number of these viruses are called “high risk” because they are linked to the development of cancers, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancer and head and neck cancer.
In 2007, Australia was the first country in the world to introduce a national public HPV vaccination program, allowing girls and boys up to the age of 19 to receive two doses of the free HPV vaccine. HPV.
The vaccine protects against nine types of HPV that cause about 90% of cervical cancers in women, 95% of all HPV-related cancers in men and 90% of genital warts, according to the program supported by the Australian government.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 80% of girls in Australia are immunized against the virus before the age of 15.
To examine the effects of the vaccine outside of cervical cancer rates, Professor Canfell and colleagues studied data from the National Perinatal Data Collection, a national database on pregnancy and childbirth.
In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 will be routinely offered the first HPV vaccination when they go to school. Year 8
The team compared the rates of preterm births, as well as “small-scale gestational age births – births of babies smaller than normal – born in Australia between 2000 and 2015.
In the group of mothers who had received HPV vaccination coverage, the relative rate of preterm births decreased by 3.2% and by 9.8% in small infants for gestational age, after adjustment for l year of birth and maternal age of the infant.
In total, the researchers estimated that around 2,000 Australian babies had been saved from premature birth thanks to their mother’s vaccine.
The researchers hope these results will encourage parents to have their children vaccinated against HPV.
“This analysis provides provisional population-level evidence of a reduction in adverse pregnancy outcomes in the cohorts of women who have received HPV vaccination,” the team wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
“These results indicate broader potential benefits from HPV vaccination than those that have been documented to date.”
Professor Canfell also predicted that over the next 15 years, the country’s HPV vaccine and cervical screening program will prevent more than 2,000 cases of cervical cancer and save around 600 lives for women.
However, cervical screening is also recommended regardless of the vaccine.
“Screening for cervical cancer is recommended every five years from the age of 25, and we recommend that women be screened, whether or not they have been vaccinated against HPV,” she said. declared.
The NSW Cancer Council has declared that the vaccine is routinely administered in school curricula at the age of 12 to 13, although this has been temporarily stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Catch-up measures for children who have missed their scheduled immunization during this period should be put in place when it can be done safely,” the report said.
HPV VACCINE FOR ADOLESCENTS IN ENGLAND
Boys in grade 8 of the school started receiving the HPV vaccine as well as girls in September 2019, 11 years after its introduction.
Health officials have decided to expand the campaign to also include boys ages 12 and 13 to prevent more than 100,000 cancers by the year 2058.
Men can get HPV cancer and can also put women at increased risk by spreading the virus through sexual contact.
Human papillomavirus is available in more than 100 different strains and is normally harmless.
But about one in 20 cancers worldwide is linked to HPV, and the virus causes huge proportions of cancers of the genitals.
Cervical cancer can be attributed to HPV in 99% of cases, said Public Health England.
The same goes for 90% of anal cancers, 70% of vaginal cancers and 60% of penile cancers.
Although a large proportion of boys have been able to be protected by vaccinating girls, they can grow up to have sex, introducing jab for boys and also providing protection across the population.
Those who grow up to have sex with men, with women who are too old to be vaccinated, or those who simply did not jab for other reasons would not have been protected, for example .
Academics and medical organizations hailed the move as “a triumph for gender equality in cancer prevention”.
“By extending the HPV vaccine to boys, the NHS is taking an important step in our fight against cancer,” said NHS national director Cally Palmer.
“More people will be better protected and the vaccine could help get rid of cervical cancer in this country.”