The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted today to recommend the use of the Cervarix human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine in girls age 11 and 12. Cervarix was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 16 and acceptance by the ACIP is the next step toward widespread use of the vaccine. The panel had initially recommended that the guidelines say that Gardasil, previously approved by the FDA, and Cervarix were interchangeable. But the final approval noted that Cervarix protects against only two strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, while Gardasil protects against those two strains plus two other strains that cause genital warts.
The panel also voted that Gardasil "may be given to males aged 9 through 26 years to reduce their likelihood of acquiring genital warts." That statement stopped short of recommending it for boys and men and some experts think that, as a result, insurance companies will not pay for the vaccine for males.
The panel also recommended that Cervarix for girls and Gardasil for boys be included in the government's Vaccines for Children program, which provides immunizations free for uninsured and underinsured children.
Both vaccines are administered in three doses: an initial shot, another shot one to two months later, and a third six months later. Both cost just under $400 for the three-shot regimen. The vaccines have been controversial because of claims that they have produced serious side effects in some girls who have received them.
The CDC generally adopts recommendations made by ACIP. Gardasil is made by Merck & Co., Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II