The HPV vaccine debate has been reignited after the first head-to-head study revealed that Cervarix appears to offer a better immune response against cervical cancer than Gardasil.
The findings, presented last week at the International Papillomavirus Conference in Malmo, Sweden, appear to justify the DoH choice of Cervarix for the vaccination programme.
At the time, the DoH was heavily criticised for choosing the cheaper HPV vaccine, in a move estimated to have saved the DoH £18.6 million a year.
But the head-to-head study, involving 1,106 healthy women aged 18-45, found that Cervarix generated a greater antibody response to the cancer causing HPV strains, 16 and 18, after seven months.
Cervarix was also found to induce 2.7 times more memory B-cells than Gardasil for HPV strains 16 and 18, suggesting better long-term protection.
Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: 'This study offers evidence for the first time that the two available HPV vaccines do not generate the same level of response against HPV 16 and 18.'
But Dr Sarah Jarvis, RCGP spokeswoman for Women's health, said that it was 'irrelevant' to compare the antibody responses as both vaccines were above the threshold for producing a response to HPV.
'Gardasil offers the additional protection against genital warts,' she added.
Professor Margaret Stanley, a member of the JCVI HPV-subgroup, said: 'The findings are not unexpected but it is impossible to say whether Cervarix offers better protection than Gardasil.
'The DoH decision to select Cervarix was based very much on the economics.'
A spokeswoman for Sanofi-Pasteur, the makers of Gardasil, said: 'The protective threshold for HPV antibodies has not yet been defined, so comparing antibody levels produced by the two vaccines is not clinically meaningful. Neither efficacy nor duration of protection can therefore be predicted from measured antibody levels.'
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