Cervical Cancer Vaccine Approved
FDA Approves Gardasil for Girls and Women Aged 9-26
WebMD News Archive
Pap Screening Still Needed
Despite its potency, Gardasil won't prevent every cervical cancercervical cancer or every HPV infection. There
are some 100 HPV strains out there. Those covered by the vaccine are the worst
offenders, but not the only ones.
Neither Gardasil nor Cervarix prevent disease in people already infected
with the virus. Perhaps as many as 80% of adults have been exposed to at least
one strain of HPV, Kahn says. For reasons not fully understood, only a minority
of people with HPV get cervical cancercancer or wartswarts.
"These vaccines only prevent infection. They do not prevent disease once you
are already infected with the virus," Kahn says. "The vaccines do not treat
This means that while the vaccines undoubtedly will prevent many of the
annual 3,700 U.S. and 233,000 worldwide cervical-cancer deaths, it will not end
cervical cancer, genital
wartsgenital warts, or
the spread of other HPVs.
"One of the points I am going to try to get across to teens is to
stressstress that even after getting the
vaccine, they must continue to get regular Pap screening," Kahn says. "Some
vaccinated women will still have abnormal Pap tests. It does not mean the
vaccine is not working. A lot of abnormal Paps are caused by HPVs that are not
in the vaccines."
The Role of Parents
Vaccines don't work if people don't use them. Researchers think the vaccines
will work best if given to teens before they become sexually active -- that is,
at ages 11 to 13.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Will parents object to vaccinating
Some will -- but the vast majority won't, predicts Gregory D. Zimet, PhD,
professor of pediatrics and clinical psychology at Indiana University School of
Medicine, Indianapolis. Zimet has studied parental attitudes toward vaccines,
including vaccines that would protect against sexually transmitted
"There has been this idea that giving an HPV vaccine to teens might be seen
by parents as giving their daughters permission to have sex -- or that it might
lower some kind of barrier and lead to a sense of safety that would lead that
young adolescent to engage in sex that they would not otherwise have," Zimet
But when Zimet and colleagues asked parents what their concerns would be
about an STD vaccine, this wasn't a common opinion. Instead, parents wanted to
know how safe the vaccine was, how well it worked, and whether the disease it
prevented was serious.
"There had been some concern that doctors might be reluctant to prescribe
STD vaccines because of anticipated parental opposition," Zimet says. "But
research indicates parents have great eagerness to have their children
vaccinated against these diseases."