Gardasil, which protects against various strains of human papilloma virus, has been hailed as an easy way to protect women from cervical cancer and criticized as a remedy that isn't needed in this country because regular pap smears readily pick up cervical cell changes, which can then be effectively treated. [*In an earlier version of this post, I wrote "pap smears already do a good protective job." Several readers flagged this error.] (There have also been some reports of serious side effects from the shot -- however, cause and effect have not been established.)
Given the back-and-forth, one can't help wondering how many parents have gone ahead and got the shots for their daughters since the vaccine was approved in 2006. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released the first national estimate, for 2007, in which they report that 25% of girls ages 13 to 17 received at least one shot, a coverage rate that a CDC spokesman termed "very good" for a new vaccine. (There are three shots in the complete regimen.)
The report was part of the 2nd Annual National Immunization Survey for Teens (NIS-Teen), released today. You can read more of the report at the CDC website.
In other Gardasil news, the vaccine has now been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for protection against vulvar and vaginal cancers caused by HPV 16 and HPV 18. (These two HPV types are thought to account for 40% to 50% of vulvar cancers and 70% of vaginal cancers.)
Read more about the debate over Gardasil here.
-- Rosie Mestel