Fight Against Cervical Cancer Advances
National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination of 11- and 12-year-old girls with new drug that prevents cervical cancer
Interestingly, with the ACIP approval which reportedly is all but guaranteed acceptance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opposition to the drug by social conservatives, such as the Family Research Council, appears to have softened: The FRC "continues to endorse both the distribution and the widespread availability of the vaccine," FRC Abstinence Project coordinator Moira Gaul told the daily. Before the vaccine got FDA approval, the FRC and other groups voiced concern that promoting the vaccine might somehow encourage promiscuity. (Reportedly, the FRC changed its tune after meetings with vaccine-maker Merck earlier this year.)
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 6.2 million Americans are infected with HPV each year and that more than half of all sexually active people become infected with it at some point in their lives. Cervical cancer caused by changes to the cervix brought on by HPV infection is the second leading cause of death in women worldwide, killing more than 200,000 each year; about 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the U.S. and about 4,000 die from it.
The ACIP also recommended that the vaccine which is approved for use in females ages 8-26, who have never been infected with HPV be included in the federal Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free shots to uninsured and underinsured children; additionally, Merck announced this spring that it would make the vaccine available to older females in the target age range whose family incomes are up to twice the federal poverty level. While the ACIP does not have the ability to add Gardasil to the list of immunizations required for public school attendance and while the target age for the vaccine begins at age 11 its recommendations combined with the expected HHS approval, would clear the way for individual states to require the vaccine.