The HPV vaccine is almost 100 per cent effective even in the real world, according to scientists.
Scientists at King’s College London analaysed data from studies involving some 60million people over eight years to work out the true effectiveness of the jab.
Given to teenage girls since 2008 and to boys as well since the beginning of the current school year, the vaccine destroys a virus which causes cancer and warts.
Public health experts have huge hopes for the ‘near perfect’ immunisation and are confident it will wipe out cervical cancer completely within 80 years.
The King’s College research found that the vaccine appears to be 99.8 per cent effective at preventing HPV five years after it is given.
‘Our analysis finds that the near perfect efficacy of HPV vaccination in … trials is realised in real-world settings,’ said Professor Peter Sasieni, who did the research.
‘These results imply that the impact of HPV vaccination on preventing cervical cancer could be even greater than estimated previously.’
The vaccine was developed to prevent HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 from spreading.
Types 16 and 18 cause more than 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases in the UK, while types 6 and 11 cause 90 per cent of of genital warts cases – the jab protects against both.
Professor Sasieni’s research used data from a review published last year which combined 65 other studies from 14 countries.
It aimed to check the real-world effectiveness of the jabs, which may not always turn out to be as effective as they were in laboratory tests.
And it found the jab was 92 per cent effective within four years of it being given; 99.8 per cent effective after five years; and 97.6 per cent effective overall.
This was when the researchers took into account how well the vaccine in worked in people who received it, and the proportion of people who did receive it.
Professor Sasieni wrote in his paper: ‘These data show that the impact of HPV vaccination on HPV type 16 and HPV type 18 infections in girls has been substantial.
‘After adjusting for vaccine coverage, vaccine efficacy is both homogeneous across populations and remarkably high.’
HPV – human papillomaviruses – are extremely common and nearly always harmless, but have been proven to cause certain types of cancer in some people.
Cancers in both male and female genitals and reproductive systems, as well as of the rectum and the mouth and throat, may all be linked to the viruses.
The effectiveness of the vaccine, as well as highly sensitive smear tests which there are plans to introduce in the UK, are expected to drastically reduce cervical cancer rates.
A report published in February last year predicted that the cancer cases would be cut in half by 2050 and eradicated completely by 2100.
The current rate of cervical cancer is 8.4 cases per 100,000 women – it is diagnosed around 3,200 times per year in the UK.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said at the time: ‘To have a cancer that can be eliminated is truly exciting.
‘The HPV vaccine and cervical screening programmes provide fantastic weapons against this awful disease and on the horizon are further advancements such as more effective vaccines, potential for epigenetic testing and HPV self-sampling which will get us even closer to elimination.’
Professor Sasieni’s letter was published in medical journal The Lancet.