HPV Vaccines May Benefit Women Even If They Don't Get It, Study Suggests

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Vaccinations for the human papillomavirus have been around for some time now. In a new study, researchers found that HPV vaccines may benefit women even if they don't get it. This means people may be benefiting from something called "herd immunity". And, while that's really good for researchers to know, it's still important to get vaccinated yourself if you can.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to Planned Parenthood, and although it's usually harmless, it can sometimes lead to genital warts. Vaccines were introduced in 2006, so it's been a little over a decade now. Planned Parenthood noted there are more than 200 types of HPV, but only about 40 of them infect your genital area, as well as your mouth and throat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted HPV can also cause cervical cancer or other cancers that include the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, or even cancer in the back of the throat. Although HPV commonly clears up all on its own, as noted by Planned Parenthood, doing your best to prevent yourself from getting it by getting vaccinated is important.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics outlined the benefits of the HPV vaccination and found that it is beginning to benefit women even if they don't actually get the vaccination themselves.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati followed almost 1,600 teenage girls and young women who were patients at clinics, as noted by the study's abstract. The study noted that researchers gathered data related to the changes in rates of four types of HPV that the vaccine addresses, all of which are linked to cancer.

First, the researchers found that a lot of women are getting the vaccination now. According to the study's abstract, between 2006 and 2017, the rate of HPV vaccination rose from 0 to more than 84 percent. Remember, the HPV vaccine was only introduced in 2006, so that's a really impressive leap!

Among those who were vaccinated, HPV's prevalence dropped from 35 percent to 6.7 percent, per the study's abstract, for an overall 81 percent drop. All of that points to how the vaccine is helpful for those who actually get it, but the researchers had one other important result as well.

The study also showed HPV's prevalence dropped among patients who weren't vaccinated, as per Healthline. According to researchers, about one-third tested positive for viral strains to start, but that dropped to 19.4 percent over time, as reported by HealthDay News.

According to researchers, that points to "herd immunity" or "herd protection", as noted by HealthDay News, which is when people benefit when a large proportion is vaccinated against a specific disease.

Dr. Ina Park, an adviser to the American Sexual Health Association, didn't find that to be a surprise. According to HealthDay, Dr. Park pointed out that outbreaks of the infection aren't as common, then the risk of getting it yourself goes down as well.

Although it's awesome to know HPV vaccinations seem to have a herd benefit, don't count on that alone. "Don't rely on herd immunity," Dr. Park cautioned, per HealthDay. "The best way to ensure protection is to get vaccinated."

The study looked at how HPV vaccinations benefited girls and young women, but HPV can impact anybody. The CDC suggested everybody ages 11 or 12 should get vaccinated and, if you weren't vaccinated when you were young, consult a doctor about possibly receiving a catch-up vaccine.