An advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted unanimously last week to recommend that a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) be approved by the FDA. Two strains of HPV cause approximately 90 percent of cervical cancer cases. The panel was voting on the brand-name vaccine Gardasil, produced by Merck and Co. Another HPV vaccine, Cervarix by Glaxo-Smith-Kline, is also awaiting FDA approval. The FDA is on track to make a decision on the Gardasil application by June 8, 2006.
Both vaccines have been found to be most effective when given to girls before they become sexually active, as HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that affects over half of sexually active adults, reports the Associated Press. Following a decision from the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will consider adding this vaccine to its roster of routine vaccinations. A sub-group of the committee has recommended the vaccine be given to girls between ages 11 and 12, and the full committee will consider recommendations for ages 9 to 26.
Initial objections from right-wing moralists seem to have dissipated. They claimed that routinely vaccinating young women against a future risk of cervical cancer would lead them to engage in more unprotected sex, despite the absence of any research supporting this claim. According to Reuters, Merck worked to educate conservative Christian groups about the vaccine, and focused on its ability to wipe out cervical cancer in American women in the next generation. Still, conservatives have announced that they will oppose making the HPV vaccination one of the vaccinations required for public school attendance.