Sunday, June 11, 2006

HPV Vaccine

(Now, I feel the need to note that I'm not a doctor or medical official of any kind. The information that I've written below has been gleaned from various articles at various media sites around the internet, and while I think it's correct, there may be errors of which I'm unaware. Always consult a medical doctor about any health concerns.)

Don't know if you've all heard or not, but Merck (the drug company) has come up with a vaccine against HPV (the leading cause of cervical cancer). They've been working on it for several decades, and another HPV vaccine, by GlaxoSmithKlein, is currently being tested in Europe. The Merck vaccine doesn't protect against all strains, only 4 (two - #6 and #11 - known to cause only genital warts and two - #16 and #18 - known to cause 70% of cervical cancer cases) and will not (apparently) eliminate the need for Pap tests entirely, but it will drastically reduce the chances of contracting a strain of HPV that causes cervical cancer. There are 13 strains of HPV which are not covered by the vaccine and are known to cause the other 30% of cervical cancer cases. The GlaxoSmithKlein vaccine targets only strains 16 and 18.

In any case, the vaccine is currently recommended for all girls ages 9 to 12. The FDA has approved the vaccines' use for females only ages 9 to 26 if they do not have HPV. If a woman has one of these strains of HPV and gets the vaccine, it will only aggravate the virus. Males who are not infected with those strains should (after the FDA approves it) also be able to get the vaccine because, while HPV is not known to cause any cancer in men, they can spread the virus very easily. Apparently, it protects better if people are vaccinated before age 13 because the immune response to it was stronger at the onset of puberty in all test subjects, but will be effective no matter the age in the targeted range of 9 to 26. I'm definitely going to look in to getting vaccinated and suggest everyone else who can look into it for themselves and/or for their daughters (and sons too, once it is FDA approved for males).

The vaccine requires three different shots, each approximately six months apart, in sequence. Each shot will cost approximately $150 for those without insurance, which I realize is a real kick in the ass. But because it is a "FDA recommended vaccine" now, insurance companies *should* cover the full cost.

There are some organizations, such as the "Christian Medical and Dental Association" and other elements of the "religious right," who think that younger girls should not be allowed to get the vaccine because it will reduce their fear of having sex. ::blink, blink:: I wish I made that up... and will not go on to explain all the things wrong with such thinking as I believe they are readily apparent to anyone who would have as much a problem with that kind of thinking as I do.

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