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How effective is HPV vaccine?

Updated May 27, 2023

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As of April 2023, there are no studies that confirm HPV vaccine has reduced the incidence of HPV associated cancers. According to CDC data, HPV associated cancers increased to 41,000 cases between 2010 to 2014  from 26,000 cases between 2004 and 2008.  From 2011 to 2015, HPV associate cancers increased again to 42,700 cases, with approximately 24,400 among women and 18,300 among men.  During the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) February 2018 meeting, it was reported that “it may take decades to see population-level impact due to the length of time between the initial HPV infection and the development of cancer.” 

HPV vaccines cannot treat existing HPV infections and does not protect against HPV types not covered by the vaccine. In fact, 21 percent of HPV associated cancers involve HPV types not included in Gardasil 9.    HPV vaccine does not replace the need for routinely recommended cervical or anal cancer screenings.  If vaccinated women opt to skip routine cervical cancer screening, cervical cancer rates are expected to increase.  Cervical cancer has been reported in women who have received HPV vaccine. 

Long-term effectiveness studies of Gardasil found the vaccine to be between 88.4 and 94.4 percent effective against HPV Type 6; 89.1 and 95.5 percent effective against HPV Type 11; 96.8 to 99.1 percent effective against HPV Type 16; and 60 to 64.1 percent effective against HPV Type 18 after nine years.  A 2017 Merck funded study of five year Gardasil 9 antibody levels and concluded that the vaccine was 97.4 percent effective against the HPV Types covered by the vaccine.  Research studies indicate that, unless HPV vaccination produces high antibody titers for at least 15 years, vaccination alone will not prevent cervical cancer. 

A 2015 study found that HPV vaccinated women had a higher rate of high-risk HPV types other than HPV Type 16 and 18, which put them at an increased risk of cervical and other HPV related cancer.  Additionally, a study conducted in Costa Rica also found that women who received HPV vaccine were more likely than unvaccinated women to develop HPV from strains not covered in the vaccine. 

A 2020 published study that reviewed 12 HPV vaccine clinical trials on Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines found that the trial design may have led to an overstatement of vaccine efficacy. Additionally, researchers also found that the clinical trials did not adequately represent populations that were targeted for the vaccine. While clinical trials showed evidence that the vaccines could prevent CIN1 lesions, this finding was insignificant because these lesions generally resolve without the need for intervention. 

In the US, researchers have not found any association between vaccination and cancer rates. Decreases in cervical cancer rates were noted even prior to the introduction of Gardasil in 2006, and the rates have essentially remained the same through 2020.  A study published in 2022 in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer found that: 

Over the last 18 years [2001 through 2018, 29,715 women were diagnosed with distant stage cervical carcinoma When examining the trends over time, there has been an annual increase in distant stage cervical cancer at a rate of 1.3% per year. The largest increase is seen in cervical adenocarcinoma with an average annual percent change of 2.9%.

In Australia, there has been a 30 percent increase in cervical cancer rates among 30 to 34-year-old women in the past 13 years despite the introduction and widespread use of the Gardasil vaccine. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, which introduced HPV vaccination in 2008, rates of cervical cancer among 20 to 24-year-old women had increased 70 percent by 2016. 

While cervical cancer associated with HPV types found in the vaccine have reportedly decreased, the rate of HPV-related cancers from any type of HPV strain have increased significantly in recent years. In 2015, 43,000 individuals developed an HPV-related cancer, up from 30,000 in 1999. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about HPV and the HPV vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


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