Updated
April 26th, 2019

Gardasil Empowers ‘Herd-Immunity’ Cancer Protection

HPV vaccination with Gardasil enabled the reduction of cancer in unvaccinated women

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A large number of women who never received a human papilloma (HPV) vaccination are benefiting from “herd immunity”, says a new study. 

Herd-Immunity protection is when everyone benefits from having a large portion of the population vaccinated against a particular disease. 

This 10-year study conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati and published in the journal Pediatrics found 32 percent of the non-vaccinated women tested positive for the HPV strains at the beginning of the study. 

Ten years later, the rate of HPV infection had decreased to just 19.4 percent. 

"This data shows that the HPV vaccine is living up to its promise," said Dr. Amanda Dempsey, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado, who wrote an accompanying editorial published in Pediatrics. 

"The overarching message is, this vaccine works great in the 'real world.” 

But, "Don't rely on herd immunity. The best way to ensure protection is to get vaccinated,” Dr. Dempsey said. 

Nearly all of the patients in this study received the original HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which protected against four virus types. 

The current HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9 protects against an additional 5 types. 

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"Preventing cancer with a vaccine is a dream come true as a healthcare provider. And now even more people can benefit from this life-saving therapy,” said Michelle Beall, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist, Brookshire Grocery Company. 

“Since there is no cure for HPV, this HPV vaccine saves lives.” 

“I highly encourage anyone from 9 to 45 years of age to ask their doctor, nurse or pharmacist about receiving this vaccine." 

Continued community-level research is needed to determine if this trend reverses and if the prevalence of the 5 HPV types that are now included in the 9-valent vaccine begin to decline once a higher proportion of young women have received the Gardasil 9.   

In addition, the findings of differences between women who are unvaccinated and women who are vaccinated underscore the importance of understanding predictors of non-vaccination and designing clinical interventions to reach those youth who are unvaccinated and who may be at an elevated risk for HPV. 

Although these findings are important for clinical care and public health policy, continued surveillance will be important to assess for waning vaccine effectiveness, herd protection, and the impact of 9-valent vaccine introduction. 

Potential conflicts of interest: the authors disclosed various industry relationships. 

This study was supported by 2 grants from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (R01 AI073713 and R01 AI104709) and a grant from the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1 TR001425). Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).