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New cervical cancer vaccine highly promising, but questions remain

August 1, 2007

Many experts recommend vaccinating all preteen girls. Others urge caution.

In 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, the first vaccine designed to prevent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 strains of HPV, and 30 to 40 are sexually transmitted. Gardasil, made by the drug company Merck, targets strains 16 and 18, which are implicated in 70% of cervical cancers, and strains 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts. The vaccine was approved on the basis of early results showing that it was virtually 100% effective in preventing infection by the targeted strains for up to 18 months.

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