Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It Takes Two: Gardasil Not Just for Girls

There has been much debate over Merck's release of Gardasil, a vaccine shown to protect against certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV), even those that can cause cervical cancer (CDC) The vaccine was shown to be most effective in young girls (aged 12-15) and seemed to lose its efficacy when given to women in their 20s. Vaccination of young girls, however, was resisted by most of the usual suspects (even claims that it would increase sexual activity among those vaccinated or encourage early onset of sexual activity), but thoughtful consideration of long-term effects should be considered before getting vaccinated.

But the question, "why only vaccinate girls?" continued to linger. Recently CNBC announced that Merck decided to seek FDA approval for use in boys, as well. FDA approval could be a great step in reducing HPV disease and transmission of genital warts - though it is definitely only one tool to protect against STDs. 

Unfortunately, Gardasil is extremely costly, $360-$375 for the entire series. Not all insurance covers this vaccine. Additionally, it requires 3 shots, multiple doctor visits. Without a regular source of care, it could be difficult to ensure that teens get the entire vaccination series. Additionally, this vaccine does not protect against the most common sexually transmitted diseases: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. Thus, wise discretion of sexual partners, regular STD screenings, and consistent use of condoms are important for anyone engaging in sexual activity. 

This is an interesting development worth keeping an eye on.

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