Monday, November 29, 2010

HPV Vaccine

Recently, some state legislators have taken up action against the mandatory administration of the HPV vaccine in young girls. In light of the vaccine’s high success rate in preventing cervical cancer many states passed laws which added Gardasil to the already existing list of mandatory vaccinations required for children to enter school.

A number of things have changed since those laws were enacted. First off, the FDA approved the vaccine for use in boys and young men, a step forward in helping to prevent the ramifications of HPV in that age group. Secondly, there has been much more attention paid to foamites.

Foamites are inanimate objects which can harbor the virus particles and carry them from place to place. An example of this can be as simple as one’s finger but can include other simple objects as well.

People have been asking for some time if the virus can be contracted from such things as underwear or towels and the answer appears to be a resounding yes. The virus has been found on the underwear of women known to have HPV and towels are just another material source through which the virus may be transferred.

Unfortunately, this is a very virulent (strong/aggressive) virus and one that is very difficult to destroy even at very high temperatures. This brings us back again to the question of removing the vaccine from the mandatory vaccination list for school-age children.

One such legislator in Virginia has stated that HPV does not have the likelihood of being transmitted between these children as with other diseases for which we already provide mandatory vaccinations. Apparently she is not considering the significant research pointing to foamites transmission of HPV when considering putting forth this legislation.

HPV has already been found in saliva, amongst other bodily fluids such as urine, breast milk, seminal fluid and others. How often do school-aged children share that can of soda or other drink – a perfect example of foamites. So before considering rescinding this legislation these legislators, most often not medically oriented, need to become far more educated and up-to-date when it comes to HPV vaccination.

It has taken years for the FDA to approve the use of the vaccine in the prevention initially of cervical cancer. This was then expanded to include vaginal and vulvar dysplasia and cancers. They are on the verge of deciding, this month, whether or not to include anal dysplasias and anal cancer onto that list.

With all the progress that has been made in the five years since the vaccine became available, hopefully legislators will not rescind that progress as a result erroneous information and lack of thorough research.