The American Cancer Society in its journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians recommended that girls ages 11 and 12 receive Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil.
Gardasil in clinical trials has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing infection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. FDA in July 2006 approved Gardasil for sale and marketing to girls and women ages nine to 26, and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices later that month voted unanimously to recommend that girls ages 11 and 12 receive the vaccine.
The ACS guidelines state that girls as young as age nine can receive the vaccine and recommend the vaccine for girls and women ages 13 to 18 to complete the three-shot series or to catch up on missed shots. The guidelines also say that there is not enough data to recommend whether women ages 19 to 26 should be vaccinated. Harmon Eyre, lead author of the guidelines and chief medical officer of ACS, in a statement said, “The vaccine holds remarkable potential, but unless the same population of women who right now do not have access to or do not seek regular Pap tests gets this vaccine, it will have limited impact.” Eyre added that it is “critical” that women continue to be screened regularly even if they have received the vaccine.
Several states recently have introduced legislation that would require girls as young as age 11 to receive Gardasil unless parents and guardians choose to opt out of the requirement. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow parents and guardians to opt out of vaccines for medical reasons, and all states except Mississippi and West Virginia allow religious opt-outs, while 20 states allow opt-outs for philosophical or personal reasons. ACS estimates that 11,150 cervical cancer cases will be diagnosed this year in the U.S. and that 3,670 women will die from the disease.