Cervical Cancer Vaccine

What is it?

Scientists have identified certain types of the virus human papillomavirus (HPV) as the leading cause of cervical cancer in women.  Recently the FDA has approved a vaccine for this virus that will prevent cervical cancer in women.  This is considered a major breakthrough in women’s health.

The FDA has approved Gardasil for women age 9 to 26.  Worldwide, cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in women, the FDA estimates 233,000 deaths per year.   This vaccine will prevent 70% of cervical cancer.

The Issues

There are two issues with the vaccine, the first is that even though it is approved by the FDA, the long term effects are not really known, since the drug has not been tested on large populations of people over a long period of time.  This is an issue in states such as Kentucky, where the government is considering making the
vaccine mandatory for girls in middle school.

A social issue has also been raised.  HPV is spread through sex.  Some say that curing this virus will lead to more teenagers having sex (a bit ridiculous, since the cause and effect of the virus until recently was reasonably obscure…).

What you should do?

Parents must make their own decision. So far the FDA has found no ill effects, but the drug has not been fully tested.  We would recommend that you consult with your physician to make this decision.