In 2006, Gardasil, a vaccine to help protect against human papillomavirum (HPV) began to be given to girls as young as 9 years old and up to age 26. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6.2 Americans are infected with HPV each year. It is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the United States. Over one half of all sexually active men and women will become infected with HPV sometime in their life. It is considered to be the leading cause of cervical cancer. Each year, cervical cancer is diagnosed almost 10,000 times and there are 3,700 deaths from cervical cancer in the U.S.
For most women, the body's natural defense system will fight the virus and they will never experience symptoms or even know they have the virus or do not develop any health problems related to HPV. However, the virus can cause abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. These can later develop into cancer.
The Pros of the Gardasil Vaccine
Gardasil helps to protect girls and women from 6 types of HPV. Four of these cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases. The other two cause genital warts. Gardasil is effective when received before becoming sexually active as it does not treat HPV, cervical cancer or genital warts.
Research has shown that girls and women have 100% protection for five years after having the vaccine. Current research is determining if a booster vaccine will be needed after this period of time or if protection will continue for a lifetime.
Gardasil contains aluminum. For anyone allergic to this metal, the vaccine should not be taken. However, aluminum is a common metal, found in other food products, including processed cheese and baby formula.
The current debate on vaccines is fueling the debate that Gardasil is an unnecessary vaccine. According to an article in the Idaho Mountain Express, Dr. Nanette Ford states, "Cervical cancer is not that common. It grows very slowly, taking years from a normal Pap to true cervical cancer. The new virus immunization is kind of like when the Hepatitis B vaccine came out. The CDC wants everyone to get it. So parents are asking, 'Why am I immunizing my child?' It's a blanket fix. If women have yearly exams and responsible sex with protection they may be exposed, but they will never die, under those circumstances, from cervical cancer."
But women do die, this year it is estimated that over 11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 3700 will die.
FDA Licenses New Vaccine for Prevention of Cervical Cancer, 2006, June 8, Federal Food and Drug Administration
Important Information About Gardasil, 2008, Merck & Co. Inc.
Pros and Cons of HPV Vaccine Debated, 2007, Jan 10, Dana Dugan, Idaho Mountain Express