A group of Japanese scientists says the number of girls with HPV is directly related to the lack of vaccination. The team led by Dr. Yusuke Tanaka discovered that a massive reduce in the usage of HPV vaccinations was raising the diagnosis among the female population in Japan. In the past, the government promoted the shots as the main way of prevention, but since the local media started to report adverse effects associated with the medicine, the authorities have suspended their endorsement. As a consequence, many girls stopped getting the vaccine and hence, the spread of the STI.

Human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV, is a compound of more than 150 viruses, many of which can lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. The infections spread through intimate skin contact, so the specialists urge people to avoid any sexual contact with an infected person. HPV is by far, the most spread STI in the world. As a counter-measure, scientists developed a vaccine that can prevent the infection.

A group of Japanese scientists says the number of girls with HPV is directly related to the lack of vaccination. Photo credit: Getty / The Huffington Post
A group of Japanese scientists says the number of girls with HPV is directly related to the lack of vaccination. Photo credit: Getty / The Huffington Post

The government of Japan started providing girls aged 13 – 16 with HPV shots in 2010 to slow down the spread of the disease in the Asian country. Then, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare made it into a routine vaccination that every girl between the ages of 12 and 16 had to take.

The government did not forbid the shots, but it stopped promoting them

The decision was not well-received by the local press, and they started reporting alleged side effects attributed to the HPV shots including chronic pain and numbness. In spite of not having a scientific base, the news made the people wary of taking the shots and eventually, the government stopped promoting its usage. Since there was no scientific background for the claims, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare did not ban HPV vaccines waiting for further research.

Dr. Yusuke Tanaka and his colleagues carried out a study on a group of girls and found out, the cases of HPV significantly raised since local authorities stopped promoting the vaccination. They used the results of the study to urge the Japanese officials to endorse the shots again. They say the number of cases will be similar to the ones reported before the vaccination was implemented if the government does change its statement. But in spite of the proofs, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare has not taken up vaccination programs.

There are 40 types of HPV that can infect the genitals, mouth, and throat. Scientists say that there are thousands of people who are infected without knowing which facilitates the spread of the infection. Dr. Tanaka, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Osaka University, said that if the government didn’t start promoting the vaccines, the diagnosis would dramatically increase among girls born in the early 2000s. The study was published on-line in the Lancet journal of science in July 2016.

HPV-related cancer cases are increasing in the US too

On July 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of HPV-related cancer cases had significantly incremented in the United States between 2008 and 2012. The information was included in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The federal entity based their statement on a study carried out by Dr. Laura J. Viens from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In the paper, Dr. Viens and her colleagues indicate the number of cases diagnosed from 2008 until 2012 were caused by HPV including cervical, mouth, anal and genital cancer. According to the specialists, vaccination could have positively impacted these numbers.

“Of the 38,793 cancers that occurred each year in the United States at anatomic sites associated with HPV, approximately 30,700 can be attributed to HPV. Of these, 24,600 cancers are attributable to HPV types 16 and 18, which are included in all current HPV vaccines, and 28,500 are attributable to high-risk HPV types included in the 9-valent HPV vaccine,” reads the paper authored by Laura J. Viens.

A separate study says that oral sex has been linked to an increase of head, throat and mouth cancer. Dr. Lain Morgan the evidence he and his team found suggested that oral sex was the cause of many of the reported cases in the US.

The CDC says that clinical trials carried showed successfully prevented the infection with almost 100% accuracy, and the effect lasts for 8 – 10 years. To get these results, the shots have to be administered at a young age (12 – 16).

As of now, there are currently laws that force girls aged 11-12 to get the shot in the United States. However, there is an ongoing debate on whether boys needed it or not. Specialists have said all children would be benefited, and at least ten states are pushing for HPV-related legislation in the Congress.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention