Seven out of 10 cases of cervical cancer arise from the Human Papiloma Virus strains 16 and 18. Gardasil is a new vaccine on the market designed to prevent HPV strains 16 and 18, but it also protects against 2 strains of anogenital warts; strains 6 and 11. These strains are responsible for 9/10 genital wart cases. There is a new vaccine on the market called Cervarix which protects against HPV strains 16 and 18 only. The UK government has decided that it is more cost effective to use Cervarix instead of Gardasil because it costs 13 Pounds Sterling less than Gardasil per dose. They are looking to begin routine vaccinations of 12 and 13 year old girls starting this September.
Surprisingly, many parents are opposed to letting their daugher receive this vaccine, claiming that the vaccine acts as “permission” to have sex. If this argument is to hold any weight, a formal study needs to be done that examines rates and ages of intercourse in relation to receiving the HPV vaccine. Girls in their early teens in many countries around the world are immunized against Measles, Mumps and Rubella primarily because contracting Rubella (the German Measles) can cause birth defects should the mother become infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. By making a point to give this vaccine to young teenage girls, you are acknowledging that there is a possibility for them to be having sex. In my opinion, there is no difference between these two vaccinations. Both acknowledge that early intercourse is a possibility, and yet the MMR vaccine doesn’t provoke the same reaction; only because we are used to it.
The cells featured in this article are from two different pap smears. The cells on the left are normal cervical cells, the ones on the right are precancerous cells infected with HPV called koilocytes.
The original article was published in the British Medical Journal on July 17, 2008.
The original press release can be found at Eureka Alert.