Scientists have determined that a single dosage of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can protect a person against HPV infections for at least three years or more.
As a result, the HPV vaccine has the potential to significantly lower HPV-based cervical cancer cases, especially in third-world countries like Kenya, where the rates of these cases are high.
If a single HPV vaccine dose has such a powerful effect on preventing HPV infections and cervical cancer, then it could significantly increase the supply of HPV vaccines for people who have not gotten it yet.
Anytime there is more supply of something, there are lower costs to buy it. That is good news for poorer countries with people who desperately need to get vaccinated.
What About Multiple HPV Doses?
United States health officials have always recommended girls 15 and younger get two doses of the HPV vaccine and girls older than 15 get three doses. But now, recent observational data suggests that you can receive adequate protection against high-risk HPV infections for three years if you receive only one dose.
The World Health Organization has reported that at least 24 nations are now recommending one dose of the HPV vaccine to their people. These nations include Guyana, Tonga, and Mexico. More countries will likely follow their lead soon if the observational data continues to hold up.
The World Health Organization also believes the single-dose approach to the HPV vaccine could thwart around 60 million cases of cervical cancer and maybe even 45 million cases of death worldwide within the next century.
Cervical Cancer Rates for Women
Cervical cancer is the fourth primary cause of cancer among adult females worldwide. World Health Organization reported approximately 604,000 new cervical cancer cases involving women in 2020. Of those cases, around 342,000 women died from cervical cancer.
And yet, over 95% of all cervical cancer cases can be linked to an HPV infection from sexual activity. Even though there are hundreds of different HPV strains, HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause up to 70% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.
The History of the HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine was launched in 2006. That was the year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permitted the HPV vaccine to be distributed to the public. Since then, it has been the best preventative treatment for preventing HPV infections and HPV-based cervical cancer cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an 80% decrease in the number of high-risk HPV infection cases known for causing cervical cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, cervical cases have not gone away entirely because roughly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually. What’s worse is that around 4,000 of these women end up dying each year.
However, poor and middle-income nations suffer the worst rates of cervical cancer-related deaths among women because they lack access to adequate screening tools and treatments. That’s why about 90% of those deaths in 2020 occurred in the poorest countries with the fewest medical resources.
Kenya still gives two doses of the HPV vaccine to children. Unfortunately, a low 33% of girls between 9 and 14 years old have gotten a single dose of the vaccine. Furthermore, only 16% of these girls will get a second dose. Compare this to the over 78% of American girls who have received at least a single dose of the HPV vaccine.
These results show that a more resourceful country like the United States can easily offer the vaccine to more citizens than a poorer country like Kenya.
Implementing the Single-Dose HPV Vaccination Method
The single-dose vaccination method can help more children get vaccinated and stay infection-free for at least three years because it allows for several vaccine delivery channels to be available for them, such as mobile clinics.
The prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a recent KEN SHE research study that looked into the effectiveness of a single dose of the HPV vaccine on approximately 2,275 different Kenyan women between 15 and 20 years old. The researchers wanted to see if the single-dose vaccination method could effectively prevent infections of the riskiest HPV strains, such as HPV 16 and 18.
The study was conducted by swabbing the women’s vaginal and cervical regions every six months for up to three years to see if the HPV infections went away over that period. The results showed that about 98% of the women saw improvement against the high-risk HPV 16 and 18 strains. No woman in the study reportedly experienced any side effects either.
The World Health Organization has modified its original recommendation and now supports giving 1 or 2 doses of the HPV vaccine to young females between 9 and 20. They also recommend giving two doses to women over 21 every six months.