Image copyright PA Image caption Ms Hewlett believes the booster-shot data emerged as a boost for vaccination efforts
Precise evidence of the effectiveness of two childhood vaccinations has been published for the first time by England’s National Health Service (NHS).
The results come after rigorous scientific investigations showing that a booster shot for the cervical cancer vaccine, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), should be offered to all adults.
The research was published on BBC Health and Quality in Medicine, and is expected to boost vaccination efforts.
The revelation of why the booster shots are so effective is also likely to signal more widespread use.
The pTbacc vaccine works by vaccinating adults before they have sexual intercourse to prevent them from getting HIV, a virus that causes Aids.
So far, babies born to HIV-positive mothers who start to grow normally before they have their first blood test can receive the pTbacc vaccine from their mothers to ensure that they are protected from HIV, before they have got their first blood test.
Only around 75% of babies vaccinated at this stage are protected. The remaining 25% of babies may suffer a significant exposure to HIV.
GPs can and do vaccinate pregnant women who receive the pTbacc vaccine during their pregnancies, as well as mothers of babies born prematurely.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The PrEP booster-shot involves giving the vaccine to older women who use pre-exposure prophylaxis
But this is not happening on a routine basis, and provides new evidence about why.
One reason is that pTbacc takes twice as long to work. Second, it is more costly.
For this reason, it is still not routinely recommended, although a number of GPs are beginning to become aware of it, and will do so in the new year.
The Health and Care Information Centre reported that fewer than 10% of UK GPs in its midwinter survey knew of pTbacc before October, and very few had talked about it with their patients.
The results of the research were published in a scientific article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).
For adults who are also at high risk of contracting HIV from heterosexual sex, a more precise and accurate estimate of the effectiveness of pTbacc can be calculated using a new equation.
Dr Gianna O’Sullivan, from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said the study could also signal a new trend of patient preference being accepted as the norm in the NHS.
“Vaccines are now generally an accepted part of health care, so that has implications for not only health, but also for how patient expectations are shaped,” she said.
The US National Institutes of Health funded the study, and Christine Holland, Professor at the Centre for Population Sciences at Oxford University, chaired the JCEM authors’ panel.
“This is a very useful study, and we should welcome the clear guidelines for the UK,” said Professor Holland.
“Prevention of HIV is one of the biggest challenges we face in contemporary society, and our new, concise, scientific guidance will help physicians choose the most effective prevention strategy for patients.
“NHS England must consider how to apply these guidance in practice and, where there is strong evidence that would favour a particular administration strategy, how to implement it.”