Cervical cancer vaccine used by 25 percent of girls 13 to 17

Well, I'd certainly call this a marketing success: It appears that one in four girls ages 13 to 17 have received Merck & Co.'s new vaccine against cervical cancer, Gardasil. This comes after a major direct-to-consumer advertising blitz by Merck, as well as lobbying in several states to make the vaccine mandatory.

The vaccine, which comes in a three-shot series, attacks strains of the HPV virus which causes about 70 percent of cervical cancers. The study covered girls from 13 to 17 only. CDC officials, who sponsored the effort, involved responses from about 3,000 girls.

Since health officials recommend that girls get the vaccine when they are 11 or 12, if possible, the percentage of girls within the whole target population who have gotten the vaccine may actually be larger.

Vaccine supporters had actually been hoping for higher vaccination rates, arguing that the shots could cut down on the almost 4,000 cervical cancer deaths that occur each year in the U.S. But there are some factors holding families back from getting their daughters these shots, including safety fears and high cost ($375, which is often but not always reimbursed by health plans).

To learn more about the progress of Gardasil:
- read this item from The New York Times

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