HPV Vaccine: A Single Dose May Be Sufficient

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HPVresizedIllustrated by Emily Kowzan
A single dose — rather than the recommended three — of the human papillomavirus (a.k.a. HPV) vaccine might be enough to protect some women against the disease, a new study from Costa Rica suggests.

While more research is needed to confirm the discoveries, the study found that women who were given one, two, or three doses of the vaccine, or had been naturally infected with HPV, all retained antibodies against the disease for four years after either the last vaccination or the moment of infection.

Women who had only received one shot produced antibodies at lower levels than those given two or three — but a single dose may still be effective since researchers have not yet verified the exact antibody level required for protection.

The recommended three doses of the vaccine have been shown to lower the risk of cervical cancer, but we won't know whether receiving one or two doses lowers cancer risk until researchers tackle the question.

Although the study did not look at Gardasil (the vaccine we use in the U.S.), the results would likely be similar. Right now, doctors still recommend the standard three vaccinations, but because of the obstacles associated with receiving several shots over time, it's nice to know that one or two doses can still make a difference. (NBC News)