A new report has revealed that the vaccines against the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can be contracted through sexual contact with someone who is infected, protect against the development of cervical cancer in young women.

Some women are at risk of a persistent HPV infection, which can lead to cervical cancer. The new Cochrane Report found that HPV vaccines were particularly effective in preventing such an occurrence in young women who were vaccinated between the ages of 15 and 26.

The authors of the report analyzed evidence from 26 previously published studies of more than 70,000 women and found no serious side effect risks associated with HPV vaccines.

Most people who engage in sexual contact will be exposed to HPV. Following exposure, most women will clear the viral infection naturally. In some cases, a persistent infection could lead to abnormal cervical cells, known as cervical ‘precancer’ since such cells can slowly progress to cancer if left untreated.

According to Dr. Marc Arbyn, of the Unit of Cancer Epidemiology at the Belgian Cancer Centre in Brussels who was also the lead author of the report, “Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women in the world.” Arbyn noted that more than 500,000 cases are diagnosed annually, with approximately half of those women dying from the disease.

CNN reported, “The World Health Organization recommends HPV vaccination for both girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14. The United States, the UK, Australia and nations in the European Union all have similar if slightly different guidelines, though only some include boys. Since not all the studies in the review included boys, the researchers did not examine evidence of HPV vaccine effectiveness pertaining to men.”

Regarding side effects of HPV vaccines, Arbyn and his team found that local reactions, such as a swollen arm after receiving an injection, were common, but discovered “no increased incidence of serious adverse effects.” There have been claims and reports that HPV vaccines cause neurological issues — including seizures. Addressing this concern, the authors added that “evidence on rare potential harms … are difficult to capture” in the types of studies reviewed.

Dr. Jo Morrison, a consultant in gynecological oncology at Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset in the UK, contended that the claims that the vaccine harms young girls “are not substantiated by the evidence.” Morrison, who was not involved in compiling the report, noted, “going down this road risks causing harm by reducing vaccination rates.”

Morrison said that “the review reassures people that HPV vaccination is effective. They should be encouraged to vaccinate their daughters, as per the government recommendation.”