Call to give girls HPV vaccine by top US scientist

Updated: 2016-05-23 08:11

By SHAN JUAN(China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

US cancer specialist says move can better protect against cervical cancer

China should add a HPV vaccine into its national immunization program as soon as possible to better protect women from cervical cancer, according to a top US scientist.

The call by Douglas Lowy, acting director of the US National Cancer Institute, comes 10 years after the first vaccine for the human papillomavirus received market approval in the United States.

Today, such vaccines are used in about 120 countries and regions. Yet it is still not available on the Chinese mainland, which results in many women heading to Hong Kong Macao and Taiwan, where local authorities have cleared a vaccine for the market.

HPV, which is largely sexually transmitted, is a major cause of cervical cancer and can also result in genital warts and other serious conditions.

Cases of cervical cancer have been on the rise on the mainland, according to Qiao Youlin, a professor of epidemiology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' Cancer Hospital in Beijing. An average of 100,000 new cases are reported each year, making it the fifth most common cancer among women, he said.

To reverse the trend, Lowy has suggested China vaccinate women against HPV, especially those living in areas with a high rate of cervical cancer. He believes girls aged 14 or younger should be the priority.

His institute estimates that widespread use of some HPV vaccines now on the market could prevent more than two-thirds of cervical cancer cases from occurring.

State-level program

According to the World Health Organization, more than 500,000 women a year worldwide are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Of this number, 275,000 will die of the disease.

Bernhard Schwartlander, WHO China representative, said 35 nations and regions have state-level HPV immunization programs. "Currently, no HPV vaccine is licensed in China, but there are companies working to develop them," he said.

One such enterprise is the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, which is building a production facility with an annual capacity of 2.5 million doses.

About 10 vaccines have applied for approval from the China Food and Drug Administration, including domestic and foreign products. Qiao said GlaxoSmithCline, the pharmaceuticals giant, has finished phase 3 clinical trials on its vaccine, which could hit the Chinese market this year. The process has so far taken almost 10 years, he said.

An estimated 17 percent of Chinese women aged 14 to 59 are infected with HPV. However, Qiao added that due to high costs-about $300 a dose-"it will be hard to get (the GSC vaccine) integrated into China's national immunization program".

Bian Ce, an associate professor of gynecology at West China Hospital in Sichuan province, said Chinese women aged about 45 are at the highest risk of cervical cancer, although the age could drop because women are becoming sexually active at a younger age and are more likely to have multiple partners than previous generations. "The youngest I've seen was 26," he said.

He said a HPV vaccine is most effective if administered before a woman has intercourse for the first time.

"The vaccines work, but they are definitely not the only way for prevention," Bian said. He recommends women aged 29 and over regularly undergo tests for HPV and cervical screening to spot precancerous lesions early.