The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended yesterday that all girls ages 11 to 12 receive the newly-licensed human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, prevents cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. The recommendation is expected to be accepted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a step which is necessary for the recommendations to become CDC policy.
Gardasil is the first immunization recommended for children that prevents a sexually transmitted disease, making the recommendation a major breakthrough. While the Department of Health cannot mandate if children must receive the vaccine to attend school, states are able to make the vaccine mandatory. It is expected that with the Department of Health’s recommendation of the vaccine, insurance companies are likely to cover the costs associated with the vaccine, which is one of the most expensive on the immunization schedule.
“This is a huge breakthrough for women’s health, for prevention, and for cancer prevention, in particular,” said Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a CDC press release yesterday about the recommendation. According to the Federal Drug Administration (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.