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Gardasil

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Updated January 23, 2010

Gardasil Basics:

Gardasil is a vaccine made by Merck & Co., Inc. and which has been approved by the FDA to prevent cervical cancer in females between the ages of 9 and 26 years of age. It is also approved to protect boys and men, ages 9 through 26 years, against genital warts (condyloma acuminata) due to certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

What Gardasil Is Used For:

Gardasil is a vaccine against the HPV or Human Papillomavirus. The Gardasil vaccine protects recipients against 4 types of HPV, including the two types that cause most cervical cancers and the two types that cause the most genital warts.

HPV Facts:

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts, abnormal Pap tests, and cervical cancer.

  • About 20 million people are infection with HPV in the United States and almost 3,700 women die of cervical cancer in the US each year.
  • Since many people have no symptoms and not even know that they are infected with HPV, they can pass on their HPV infection to their sexual partners without knowing.
  • About 1 in 500 men in the US get newly diagnosed with genital warts each year.
  • There is no cure for HPV infections.

Gardasil Facts:

Gardasil won't prevent all forms of genital warts or cervical cancers, but it is highly effective at preventing genital warts and cervical cancers that are caused by the types of HPV that the vaccine targets.

  • Gardasil is given as a three dose series completed over 6 months.

Who Should Get Gardasil:

Since Gardasil prevents HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, it is important that it be given before people become sexually active. In fact, the ACIP recommends that Gardasil be routinely given to girls when they are 11 or 12 years of age. Gardasil can be started as early as age 9 though, and can also be given to women 13 to 26 years old.

Gardasil Side Effects:

According to the CDC, so far in testing, 'there appear to be no serious side effects. The most common side effect is brief soreness at the injection site.'

Gardasil Controversy:

Some experts think that Gardasil may lead to controversy because some parents will have problems thinking about giving a vaccine against a STD to pre-teens. Other parents might not want a vaccine against a STD at all, believing that their children could not be at risk. And still others think that Gardasil might encourage promiscuity, since it could foster the belief that it protects against STDs.

What You Need To Know:

  • Gardasil is not a 'STD vaccine' in the sense that it prevents all STDs. It simply provides protection against certain types of HPV, but not other STDs, such as HIV or herpes.
  • Cervarix is another HPV vaccine has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline and is approved by the FDA.

References:

  • Genital HPV Infection - CDC Fact Sheet.
  • HPV Vaccine - CDC Fact Sheet.
  • CDC Cervical Cancer Screening Fact Sheet.
  • Immunization against genital human papillomaviruses. Bonnez W - Pediatr Infect Dis J - 01-NOV-2005; 24(11): 1005-6.

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