Maine: Vaccine Tackles Virus, but Sparks Controversy
July 27, 2006
While most new vaccines typically raise questions about effectiveness and side effects, Merck & Co.'s newly approved Gardasil is fostering debate over the message it sends about sex.
Gardasil protects against HPV, an STD that infects more than half of sexually active men and women at some point in their lives. Most HPV cases clear on their own, but some can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. Gardasil is effective against the two strains of HPV that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and two more that cause 90 percent of genital warts.
In May, a federal panel recommended Gardasil be given to all 11- and 12-year-old girls, since it is most effective before girls become sexually active, and to females as young as 9 and as old as 26.
Though the vaccine is not required for entering school in Maine, it has already sparked controversy among parents and health care providers.
Cathie Rossignol said her two girls will not be vaccinated when Gardasil becomes widely available this fall. The lifelong Catholic from Brooklin feels as though she would be "giving the OK" to premarital sex if her daughters were inoculated.
"This isn't about premarital sex," insisted Dr. Kristina Parisien, who practices family medicine in Westbrook. "This is about who's going to have sex, period." A woman could remain abstinent until marriage and still contract HPV from her husband, said Parisien. Her office plans to begin administering Gardasil within a month.
OB-GYN Nurse Practitioner Marcelle Pick of Yarmouth questions the need for Gardasil when Pap smears have been so effective at detecting HPV and cervical cancer. Though trials of the vaccine showed no serious side effects, Pick said she worries about problems that could present 10 years down the line.
Portland Press Herald
07.23.2006; Josie Huang
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.