Medical Monday: Gardasil Gets an Upgrade

Most of you are familiar with Human Papilloma Virus, aka HPV. This is the very prevalent virus which causes precancer and cancer of the human anogenital area. When I first started training in gynecology, fighting HPV seems like such an uphill battle, since it spreads so easily and is so prevalent. And then came the idea of a vaccine. It seemed too good to be true. 

Gardasil was developed and released. I am proud to say one of my friends was involved. It protects against two strains of HPV known to cause cancer, and two which cause condyloma or warts. Physicians all over the world rejoiced, but adoption rates weren't what we had hoped. 

Gardasil was initially studied in girls and women since the disease caused in women is more common and more severe. And so it was initially approved only for women. I got all my children vaccinated, and even the boys before it was approved for boys. One of my sons did some research after he got his shot, and approached me later, asking, " Mom isn't this just for girls ? " I reassured him that nothing bad would happen. It works just as well in boys and men, who distribute the virus, usually without having any disease themselves.  It eventually was approved for boys. 

Now Gardasil has been expanded to cover NINE viruses ! It is worth noting who is eligible to receive it: 

Boys ages 9-15.

Girls and women ages 9-26. 

 I expect that the age differential in eligibility between boys and girls is simple a case of what groups have had validating studies done, and I anticipate that the boys group will be expanded to the same age group as girls eventually. 

Chilling statistics anyone? 

" In 2013, coverage of at least one dose of HPV vaccine was 57.3% among adolescent girls and 34.6% among adolescent boys2According to the CDC, for every year that coverage does not increase, an additional 4,400 women will develop cervical cancer3. Furthermore, if health care providers increase HPV vaccination coverage to 80%, it is estimated that an additional 53,000 cases of cervical cancer could be prevented during the lifetime of those younger than 12 years." 

reference: ACOG Clinical Practice: The 9-Valent HPV Vaccine 

Gardasil has had a very good side effect profile, with just some arm soreness at the site. We believe its benefits far outweigh the risks. 

To learn more about HPV, please see Pap Smears, HPV and Cervical Health