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On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
(ACIP) unanimously recommended Merck's new Human Papillomavirus
vaccine, GARDASIL®, for girls and women 11 to 26 years old. The
Committee also approved the vaccine for 9- and 10-year-old girls
at the discretion of their physicians.
The GARDASIL vaccine is the only vaccine available in the United
States for the prevention of HPV types 16- and 18- related
cervical cancer. GARDASIL is to be administered in three separate
doses over a six-month period. Each dose of GARDASIL currently
sells for $120, putting a price tag of $360 on the full HPV
vaccination. Merck has, however, been working hard to try to
distribute the vaccine to those who cannot afford it, both within
the U.S. and abroad.
Merck has recently announced the creation of a new patient
assistance program for vaccines. Beginning in the third quarter
of 2006, Merck will provide free vaccines to adults (U.S.
residents age 19 or older) who are uninsured and cannot afford
them. In addition, since 1994, Merck has provided vaccines to
uninsured children through its Vaccines for Children (VFC)
program, run in conjunction with the CDC. In June, the ACIP voted
to add GARDASIL to the list of vaccines that will be distributed
as part of the VFC program. Eligible children may receive
GARDASIL through this program once the CDC contracts for the
purchase of the vaccine have been completed.
A vaccine aims to prevent cervical cancer by fighting the strains of human papillomavirus that cause it. The CDC recommends the vaccine be given before puberty, because it is more effective if received before exposure to HPV.
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