The vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus, or HPV, has drastically reduced the number of young women who are contracting the virus, according to findings released in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.
Since the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was introduced a decade ago, the virus' prevalence has decreased by 34 percent for women in their early 20s and by 64 percent for women in their late teens, the study found.
Gardasil was specifically engineered to prevent cervical cancer. It targets the four different strains of HPV that cause the majority of cases of cancer in women, and protects against anal cancer and genital warts in women and men.
“We are seeing exactly what we would expect -- that the first impact would be seen in the youngest age groups, and then as they age into the older age groups, we would see an impact on young women,” the study's lead researcher, Lauri Markowitz, told USA Today. “But we would see greater impact with greater vaccine coverage.”
Markowitz predicts a "continued decrease" as young women move into older age groups, she told The Guardian.
Despite these promising findings, the vaccine has encountered resistance from parents who fear it will encourage sexual promiscuity and doctors who are hesitant to recommend it. Rhode Island's mandate that all girls and boys across the state be vaccinated last year led to protests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 million people are currently infected with HPV in the United States, and around 14 million people, including teens, contract the virus each year. The CDC recommends that boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 get the vaccine.
The CDC added a new version of the vaccine that treats 9 strains of HPV earlier this month.