Gardasil is a vaccine produced by Merck Pharmaceuticals for the prevention of cervical cancer caused by HPV, the Human Papillomavirus. There are over 100 different strains of HPV causing everything from the common wart found on the hands to cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers.
Research continues to discover new cancers caused by this virus including oral, head/neck and certain lung cancers.
After extensive testing, Gardasil was approved for use in girls and young women in the US by the FDA in 2006. By the end of 2008, 23 million vaccines had been distributed for use. While there have been adverse effects reported after administration of the vaccine, both the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) have concluded that none of the 32 deaths reported were linked to the vaccine. Seven of these deaths were unable to be confirmed through a death certificate and the remaining deaths were from unrelated issues, or preexisting medical conditions.
Cervarix, also an HPV vaccine, is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline located in the UK. It has currently been approved in 90 countries in Europe yet awaits approval by the FDA for use in the US.
Cervarix is said to protect against five of the high risk HPV strains which are known to cause cervical cancer. It will not however provide as much protection against genital warts. Gardasil currently covers two of these high risk strains as well as two strains causing genital warts. While Cervarix approval for use is expected this Fall, Gardasil, already approved for use in girls and women ages 9 through 26, awaits approval for use in boys and young men.
While not approved for the prevention of anal cancers, 90 to 99% of which are caused by HPV, Gardasil’s protection was extended by the FDA last year to include vulvar and vaginal dysplasias (abnormal cell growth) and cancers. It would make sense that the vaccine would also aid in prevention of anal and other HPV related cancers since it is these strains of the virus that cause the cancer. The vaccine works against these strains and it would appear this to be the case regardless of which body part is affected.