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Free HPV Vaccination Cuts Genital Wart Cases in Australia

Update Date: Apr 19, 2013 08:20 AM EDT

The number of human genital warts in Australia has dropped significantly thanks to the introduction of the free human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, according to a new study.

In 2007, Australia became one of the first countries to offer free HPV vaccinations, which protects against the types of HPV that cause 90 percent of genital warts as well as other forms that can cause cancer, to girls as young as 12 and women as old as 26.

Researchers in the latest study monitored the effects of the HPV vaccine for five years using data from sexual health services.  The findings revealed the incidence of genital warts decline by more than 90 percent in adolescent and teenage girls in the first four to five years after the introduction of the HPV vaccine in Australia.

Researchers found that there was more than a 70 percent decrease in the number of 21 to 30 year old women with genital warts after the vaccine compared to three to four years before the vaccine became available.

Furthermore the drop in genital wart incidence among girls and women were accompanied by 50 percent to 80 percent decreases in the incidence of genital warts among heterosexual boys and young men.

Researchers found no difference in wart frequency in heterosexual women or men older than 30 after the introduction of the free vaccine.

Researchers said the declining HPV rates in men is probably due to a phenomenon called herd-immunity or immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a portion of the population provide a measure of protection for individuals who have no developed immunity.

Researchers said the study provided a window into the impact of HPV vaccination in a real-world community as opposed to a clinical trial.

"It actually generated data consistent with what we hoped and predicted would happen," Dr. Greg Poland, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and who was not involved in the latest study told Medpage Today.  "It showed in a large study that [the vaccine] worked and it worked fabulously."

Poland added that the results in the latest study might also apply to the U.S. and other countries that have introduced HPV vaccination.  He said that the latest findings should reassure girls, women and parents that the vaccine is safe, effective and does not promote promiscuity.

According to Everyday Health, Australian boys ages 12 and 13 will also be entitled to the free HPV vaccine starting this year.  Australian health officials hope that the vaccine will prevent genital warts and anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancer in men.

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).  

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