New vaccines make appearance
EAGLE COUNTY – Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the doctor’s office without getting a shot, another new vaccine comes along. Only a few weeks ago I wrote about a new adult pertussis vaccine, combined with the tetanus booster. Even as I am writing this, there is growing evidence that a booster varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine may benefit children who only received the currently recommended single dose. But wait, there’s even more …Dear Doc: I just heard that there is a new vaccine for cervical cancer. I am a college student and wonder if I should get it?- Keeping Up to Date in AvonDear Up to Date: Staying up to date with respect to vaccinations is one of the most important health decisions you can make. You are absolutely correct about a new FDA-approved vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. The new vaccine is called Gardasil, and is produced by Merck. While this vaccine is a milestone in many ways, most importantly it is the first vaccine targeted at preventing cancer. Gardasil prevents four strains of HPV or human papilloma virus. Specifically, these strains are called HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-6 and HPV-11. The virus strains HPV-16 and HPV-18 are known to cause over 70 percent of all cervical cancer. The other two strains, HPV-6 and HPV-11, cause 90 percent of genital warts.Although HPV is not the sole cause of cervical cancer, some experts estimate that widespread vaccination will lead to a 90 percent reduction in cervical cancer rates. With over 500,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed worldwide every year, and 250,000 deaths from the disease, this reduction is significant. At the same time, 20 million women in the U.S. have HPV. By age 50, nearly 80 percent of women will have had an HPV infection. Despite the effectiveness of Gardasil against HPV, this vaccine does not eliminate the need for routine pap smears, which screen for HPV and non-HPV related cervical cancer. Because of screening through the pap smear, our rates of death from cervical cancer are already much lower than in undeveloped countries where there is no such screening. We need to continue that success story.So far, the vaccine has only been approved for girls and women aged 9 to 26. It is administered as a series of three shots over a six-month period. Studies are being done looking at effectiveness in preventing HPV in women over 26 and in preventing genital warts in men. The Centers for Disease Control has not yet recommended specific guidelines for the vaccine’s administration, but they should be forthcoming. While the vaccine is a very effective form of prevention, the most effective method will always be abstinence from sexual activity. Our children and young adults still need to hear that message. It is also important to know that the vaccine does not prevent any other form of sexually transmitted disease such as HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia or gonorrhea.Another important vaccine update was recently released. A study published in this month’s Pediatrics journal supported evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Researchers studied 28,000 children in Canada and looked at rates of autism before and after mercury (in the form of thimerosal) was removed as a presertive in vaccines. They also studied the rate of autism before and after a second MMR vaccine was routinely aministered. They found no association between MMR vaccines and a risk of autism. Remarkably, the study actually showed a slightly higher rate of autism in children with no thimerosal exposure.Finally, West Nile virus is here! Weld County has reported one of our nation’s first human cases of West Nile virus. Between dusk and dawn especially remember to fight the bite.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to email@example.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.
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