New CDC recommendations for HPV vaccine

August 1, 2006

In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine developed to protect women against cervical cancer. Known as Gardasil and developed by Merck & Co., the drug is highly effective against four types of human papillomavirus, including two that cause cervical cancer.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine developed to protect women against cervical cancer. Known as Gardasil and developed by Merck & Co., the drug is highly effective against four types of human papillomavirus, including two that cause cervical cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that the vaccination series be given routinely to girls aged 11 to 12. It also noted that the series can be given to girls as early as 9 years of age at the discretion of physicians, and to girls and women who are 13 to 26 years old. The vaccine should be administered before the onset of sexual activity (before women are exposed to the virus), but women who are sexually active may still be vaccinated.

Controversy surrounds the drug already, as the cost has raised concerns that lower-income women may not be able to afford the drug, according to The Washington Post (6/9/06)-the vaccine will cost $120 per dose and protection will require three doses over 6 months). Moreover, social conservatives, who advocate abstinence as the best way to avoid getting HPV, oppose the mandatory use of vaccination. In contrast, women's and public health groups support early and mandatory vaccinations. Such decisions, though, will be made on a state-by-state basis.