While at least 20 states have legislation pending to make vaccination with Gardasil® mandatory for girls prior to entry in 6th grade, Merck has backed away from its financial support of lobbying efforts, according to a report by the New York Times on Wednesday, February 21, 2007. Merck’s decision was triggered by the furor over the company’s involvement in the campaign by Women in Government to push for legislation nationwide. Merck refuses to disclose the extent of its financial contributions to these efforts up to this point.
Gardasil acts against strains of the human papillomavirus that account for an estimated 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer. The virus, known as HPV, is transmitted sexually, so experts say the vaccine is best given before girls become sexually active.
There are more than 100 strains of the HPV virus, which is transmitted through sexual contact. Clinical trials showed that Gardasil is safe and 100 percent effective in preventing two strains of HPV—HPV 16 and HPV 18. These two strains cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. Gardasil, administered in three injections given over a period of six months, is also 99 percent effective in preventing HPV strains 6 and 11. These particular strains cause about 90 percent of genital wart cases. The vaccine does not work if a woman is already infected with one of these HPV types. It has to be given before infection, which is what makes vaccination of pre-teen girls an effective option.
Read the New York Times article, Lobbying for vaccine to be halted here.