2006 appears to be the year for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of
cervical cancer. Last month the FDA approved Gardasil® as the first
HPV vaccine, which is effective at preventing approximately 70% of cervical
cancer cases. This is due to its activity against HPV types 16 & 18.
It also covers types 6 & 11, responsible for about 90% of genital warts.
Approximately 80% of American adults contract HPV at some point in their
lifetime. This vaccine is preventative, so needs to be administered before
exposure to HPV. It doesn’t help with established infection, most
of which will resolve because of our immune system. consequently the CDC
recommends routine vaccination for 11-12 year-old girls and catch-up vaccination
for 13-26 year-old females (may begin as early as age 9 according to FDA trial).
- Women should receive a series of three immunizations at 0, 2, and 6 months
(costs approximately $360).
- The vaccine appears to be safe and without serious side effects. Adverse
reactions are mainly injection site pain. This reaction is common and
mild. There is no mercury in the vaccine.
- The duration of protection is unclear. Current studies indicate the vaccine
is effective for five years. There is no evidence of waning immunity during
that time period.
- Research about activity in males, older women, and duration of effectiveness
- Vaccinated women should continue to practice protective sexual behaviors
(e.g. abstinence, monogamy, limiting the number of sex partners, and/or
using condoms), since the vaccine will not prevent all HPV types—nor
will it prevent other STDs.
- Vaccinated women will need regular cervical cancer screening since the
vaccine will not provide protection against all types of HPV that cause
cervical cancer, and since some women may not receive the full vaccine series.
If you have daughters between ages of 9 and 26, check with your pediatrician
if they offer HPV vaccination. If they don’t, or if you are this
age range, please feel free to schedule an appointment with us for counseling
and immunization. This is an exciting breakthrough in the prevention of cancer.
70% of Cervical Cancer will be prevented by this new vaccine.