HPV Vaccine Gardasil Soars Past Original Expectations

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A recent study on Gardasil, a vaccine against the sexually transmitted disease Human Papillomavirus (HPV), has shown that the vaccine is even more effective than originally believed. According to the data, which were presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology this week, Gardasil protects against strains of HPV that cause 90 percent of cervical cancers. When the vaccine was originally approved the data showed Gardasil to protect against strains of HPV responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers.

Currently, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted pathogen among Americans—the rate is 6.2 million new infections each year. Because of such statistics, one would expect the Gardasil vaccine to be embraced by the public. The sad reality is that the Gardasil vaccine has been quite controversial, because in order to reach maximum effectiveness, the drug should be administered at a young age -- ideally between nine and fourteen -- to assure protection prior to sexual activity and to take advantage of the robust immune response among pre-teen girls. Some parents mistakenly believe that providing the vaccine to pre-teens and young teens will encourage early sexual activity. There is no substance to this belief, as studies have shown that young women are no more likely to initiate sex after getting protective vaccines. There are many STDs that Gardasil offers no protection against—so to say that children will feel more inclined to have sex because they feel safer is simply not true. In addition to the long list of STDs young girls can contract despite a Gardasil vaccination, there is also the very real threat of teen pregnancy.

The bottom line is that one of the many potential threats that come with sexual activity—cervical cancer—can now be markedly reduced, and it would be in everyone’s best interest to support the efforts of those responsible for this. It is important to realize that either by attacking or by avoiding the helpful benefits of medical advances we are hurting ourselves, not only by compromising our health, but by discouraging scientists and industry from investing their time and money in future medical developments.

Also see ACSH publication: http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.768/news_detail.asp