Whether you’re becoming a certified pharmacy technician or working towards your medical assistant certificate, you may have completed some coursework regarding the purpose and administering of vaccinations.
It appears that one of the most controversial immunizations, the HPV vaccine, has recently been refined by commercial pharmaceutical company Merck.
In addition to protecting against human papillomavirus, this new vaccination is said to also reduce an individual’s risk of contracting certain types of cancer, according to multiple news sources.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that the new HPV vaccine from Merck is known as Gardasil 9.1 Serving as a follow up to the company’s former HPV drug, Gardasil, Gardasil 9 is intended to offer all of the same protection as its predecessor and also reduce the risk of cancer.
This prevention capability is due to the fact that the new drug protects against a wider spectrum of valences, or types of the virus, than the original Gardasil. The Times has indicated that Gardasil 9 fights against nine different strains of the HPV virus, while Merck’s prior version only protected against four, according to The Times.
The Big Picture
While the fact that the new version of Gardasil protects against nine strains of HPV is certainly a step forward, it’s important to contextualize that information. According to MedPage Today, the estimated increase in protection against cancers caused by HPV is roughly 14 percent in women and 5 percent in men.2
This could certainly be a large step in cancer prevention, as the medicine has already been licensed for use in females ages nine to 26 and males ages nine to 15. Still, the war on HPV and HPV-related cancer prevention has a great ways to go. According to multiple sources, there are currently more than 150 types of the HPV virus that have been discovered by scientists, and more than 40 of those 150 have the capacity to cause long term illness in those infected.
These viruses are typically spread through sexual activity, as flesh to flesh contact is the primary means of transmission. They can affect the genital areas, the mouth and the throat.
While the track record of this medication speaks for itself in that it offers considerably more protection than the original, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also come out in favor of it. According to Street Insider, the CDC formally announced in late February that it would be adding Gardasil 9 to the recommended list of vaccinations for children at the age of 12.3
The vaccination is expected to come in a three dose set, each in the form of a separate immunization. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug for these demographics, they have yet to issue word on whether or not the medication is safe to be given to males over the age of 15.
The medication has the capacity to greatly influence the way we speak about prevention of HPV and HPV-related cancers. As Merck prepares for its drug to fully enter the market, Jacques Cholat, the company president, indicated his excitement at this great step forward through a press release.
“The CDC has made increasing HPV vaccination rates a public health priority. Today’s recommendation for Gardasil 9 is an important milestone in the shared effort to help further reduce the burden of HPV-related cancers and diseases,” said Cholat in a statement.
1) Kaplan, Karen, The Los Angeles Times, ‘Vaccine That Targets 9 Strains of HPV Boosts Cancer Protection, Study Says,’ 2/18/2015, http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-hpv-vaccine-gardasil-9-20150218-story.html
2) Walker, Molly, MedPage Today, ‘ACIP: 9-Valent HPV Vaccine OK to Use,’ 2/27/2015, http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ACIP/50234
3) Street Insider, ‘CDC Committee Recommends Adding Merck’s Gardasil 9 To List of HPV Vaccines,’ 2/26/2015, http://www.streetinsider.com/Corporate+News/CDC+Committee+Recommends+Adding+Mercks+(MRK)+GARDASIL+9+to+List+of+HPV+Vaccines/10317649.html