The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval yesterday of a vaccine to protect women from several strands of the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, is approved for women ages nine-26 to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18.
“This vaccine is a significant advance in the protection of women’s health in that it strikes at the infections that are the root cause of many cervical cancers,” acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said in a press statement announcing the decision yesterday. According to the FDA, over half of sexually active women will contract HPV in their lifetime. The FDA also states that HPV is responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts cases.
Gardasil has been found to be most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active, as the vaccine only prevents contraction of the disease, and does not treat infected women. It also does not protect against strains other than HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will issue a recommendation in late June on how the vaccine should be administered.