Authors: Karen Canfell, University of Sydney (Australia)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) has been extremely common historically: prior to the era of vaccination, an estimated four out of five people acquired HPV – the leading cause of cervical cancer and genital warts – at some point in their life. HPV is also linked to the development of other cancers of the anogenital tract and head and neck cancers, in both females and males.
Australia is a leader in cervical cancer prevention – we can be proud to be at the forefront of HPV research, especially as the country is preparing to implement a new HPV-based national cervical screening program in late 2017.
In 2017, every woman in Australia aged 37 years and younger is already better protected against HPV than ever before – this is a huge milestone and a truly remarkable feat. But how did we get to this point? It took many decades of dedicated research and scientific collaboration and the HPV vaccine is at the centre of this success story.
University of Queensland (Australia) researcher and 2006 Australian of the year Professor Ian Frazer first started developing a vaccine for HPV in the 1990s, along with his colleague, the late Dr Jian Zhou.
In 2007, Australia became the first country that rolled out a national HPV vaccination program. In 2013, the Australian government extended the vaccination program to include teenage boys. Globally, at well over 75 countries have now implemented national programs, with 47 million females fully vaccinated by 2014.
The impact of the HPV vaccine
In the decade since its introduction, the HPV vaccine has significantly lowered the risk of HPV-related cancers for many thousands of women around the world, with over 200 million doses distributed in 130 countries to date.