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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    HPV vaccine nearing shelves

    A vaccine for the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that is the primary cause of cervical cancer, could soon be available.

    The pharmaceutical company Merck has developed Gardasil, which protects against HPV and therefore cancer. The vaccine has proved effective in clinical trials, and medical researchers believe that if administered routinely, it could eradicate most cases of the second-most-fatal type of cancer in women.

    Deb Wambold of Merck public affairs said the Food and Drug Administration recently accepted the license application for the vaccine, giving it priority review.

    Wambold said Merck expects to hear back from the FDA in June and said the vaccine could be available to women in the United States sometime in 2006.

    In order to work, the vaccine would need to be administered to women who haven’t yet been exposed to HPV, meaning women who haven’t had sex. The best way to do that is to vaccinate preteen girls.

    Although some conservative groups have

    It’s more about preventing a deadly cancer, (as) opposed to free reign to have sex.

    – Lee Ann Hamilton,
    health educator for Campus Health

    expressed concern that vaccinating preteens could be seen as an invitation to be promiscuous, Wambold said most people realize the benefits outweigh any possible risks of such behavior.

    Psychology freshman Reyna Rodriguez said she had heard of HPV but did not know it was correlated with cervical cancer.

    She said she’s never been given information on HPV, although she considers herself fairly knowledgeable about other STDs.

    Lee Ann Hamilton, health educator for Campus Health Service, said many people have never heard of HPV, even though it’s the most common STD.

    According to the American Social Health Association, nearly three out of four Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected with genital HPV in their lifetimes. About one-third of all new STD infections each year are HPV.

    “”It’s the common cold of the sexually active,”” said Hamilton. “”We (at Campus Health) see plenty of people who have it.””

    It is hard to determine how many students treated at Campus Health have HPV because those infected are often treated on multiple visits, she said.

    Hamilton said many people might not know about HPV because STDs are generally a topic people don’t want to discuss.

    Another problem is that HPV is very complex, making it hard to understand, she said.

    There are more than 100 types of HPV, and about 30 of these types are sexually transmitted and cause genital HPV.

    Most women have immune systems strong enough to kill HPV. But in some, HPV causes genital warts, and in others the virus can potentially lead to cancerous cells in the cervix.

    It is possible, although much less common, for HPV to cause cancer in men.

    More often men don’t show any symptoms of the virus and can transmit it to their partners without even knowing they have it, Hamilton said.

    It can take months for the virus to show up in women once they have been infected, and it can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, with condoms offering only limited protection.

    Hamilton said health

    providers across the nation are very excited about the vaccine.

    “”It’s going to be great,”” she said. “”Anything that stops cancer is a good thing.””

    Wambold said the vaccine contains four types of HPV, including the two types that are believed to cause 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer. The two other types are believed to cause 90 percent of genital warts.

    More than 5,000 women each year die of cervical cancer in the United States, according to the American Social Health Association. The best way to screen for cervical cancer is a Pap smear test.

    Concerned Women for America and the National Abstinence Clearinghouse say on their Web sites the vaccine could send a message to preteens that premarital sex is acceptable. They also express concerns about the vaccine infringing on parental choice.

    The Family Research Council posted a message on its Web site saying it welcomes the news of the vaccine, but warns it will be watching closely so people know what the vaccine can and cannot do.

    The vaccine would be administered in three doses over six months.

    Wambold said Merck will not be lobbying for when the vaccine should be administered because that will left up to a panel assembled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines that get the panel’s approval are frequently added to state lists of vaccines that are required before a child begins a certain grade in school.

    Most groups that originally expressed concerns with the vaccine have now softened their positions, Wambold said.

    “”It’s more about preventing a deadly cancer, (as) opposed to free reign to have sex,”” she said.

    Patty Healy, a sophomore majoring in French, said the drug should be administered early.

    “”Some kids will still have sex,”” she said. “”It depends on the kid and depends on the parents. (The vaccine) won’t affect that.””

    A separate but similar vaccine has also been developed by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. It is expected to be available in Europe sometime this year.

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