that women who take Gardasil who are already infected with HPV are more susceptible to developing the lesions that lead to cervical cancer. So the plan is to inoculate girls as young as possible, before they've had sex, hence the FDA decision to allow the drug on girls as young as nine, or when they are in Grade 4.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the suggestion that grade-school aged girls be inoculated has caused a stir among social conservatives in the U.S. who argue that such a vaccine would only encourage promiscuity and a false sense of invulnerability to sexual disease.
But it appears to be popular among parents of young girls, according to surveys, and at least some religious groups are viewing it as a valid health response.
Social taboos in Third World countries may prove powerful disincentives to breaking the back of cervical cancer, aid workers apprehend.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given almost $28 million US to an international health group to try to figure out how to introduce a female-only HPV vaccine into socially-conservative countries like India, Uganda, Peru and Vietnam, where infection rates have been soaring and the prospect of many more women dying of cervical cancer in the years ahead is very real.
In fact, reaching these societies and perhaps the broader male market in North America at the same time may be the reason Merck included in Gardasil an extra vaccine against two other HPV strains that cause relatively harmless genital warts.
Merck says it did this because the wart strains can confuse HPV screening tests and cause unnecessary anxiety among patients.
Some researchers, however, have said that this grouping will encourage men to get vaccinated to prevent disfiguring warts, and as a result they will no longer transmit the cancer-causing HPV strains to women.
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