Australia is one of the first countries to establish a national vaccination program offering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to 12- to 13-year-old girls and catch-up programs for girls and women under age 26 years. Researchers studied the effect of the national HPV vaccine program, which began in 2007. The researchers analyzed data from 86,000 patients who visited eight different clinics from 2004–2011. They then compared the pre-vaccination data from 2004 to mid-2007 with vaccination data from mid-2007 to 2011.
According to study author Basil Donovan, MD, head of the sexual health program at the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales, the Australian program of vaccinating girls and young women under age 26 years seems to have been successful. There was a large decline in the number of cases of genital warts with a marked decrease among the younger age groups. Cases of genital warts dropped by 59 percent within the first two years of the program’s launch in 2007, and there was a decline in the rate of cervical abnormalities in adolescent girls. There was a similar drop in genital warts in every age group of men, with the infection rate falling more sharply with decreasing age. Donovan stated that the high rate of immunization among women was also protecting unvaccinated heterosexual young men.
Donovan noted that all indications are that the program has been successful, but they will not be certain until the rates of HPV-related cancers start dropping. He explained that the genital warts appear approximately three months after HPV infection, but HPV-related cancers appear about 20 to 30 years later.
The full report, “Genital Warts in Young Australians Five Years into National Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Programme: National Surveillance Data,” is published online in the journal BMJ (2013;346:f2032).