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Children’s expert says HPV vaccine has reduced virus in Wisconsin

February 23, 2016

MILWAUKEE – The human papillomavirus vaccine introduced a decade ago has reduced the virus’s prevalence by almost two-thirds in teenage girls and by more than a third in women in their early 20s, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. 

Although state studies on the vaccine’s effectiveness have not been completed, a Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin expert asserts that the vaccine has had similar results here in Wisconsin.

“There’s no reason to think that it’s not transferable to all populations,” said Lyn Ranta, MD, director of physician affairs at Children’s.

Ranta said the percentage of Wisconsinites who received the HPV vaccination is also about the same as the national rate.

In Wisconsin, 40.4 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds have received at least one dose of the HPV vaccination. The national rate for that age group is 40 percent.

While Ranta said the vaccination has resulted in fewer HPV infections, time will tell if there will be less HPV-related cancer.

“Because the majority of people get cancer in their 40s or 50s, we can’t say that we’ll see less cancer,” she said. “Almost everyone gets infected with this germ. For most people, that infection eventually goes away, but not always. There’s some who will never really get rid of the infection, and that infection is what triggers cancer in their 40s and 50s. We can’t say for sure if we will have less cancer, but I certainly anticipate if there’s fewer people with HPV infections, there will be fewer people who develop HPV-related cancers.”

Ranta said the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, and should be recommended to girls at age 11 or 12.

“We need to remember that most of us decide to be sexually active at some point in our life," she said. "Sometimes that sexual activity isn't even consensual, so you really want to make sure that your children are protected long before they ever think about having or involving themselves in a sexual relationship."

Dr. Lyn Ranta, director of physician affairs at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, is available for media interviews to discuss more about this issue. Please contact Hilary Dickinson, external communication specialist, at (414) 266-3056 or hdickinson@chw.org to arrange an interview.

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