- BIOETHICS FORUM ESSAY
Now that an FDA advisory committee has unanimously endorsed Merck’s Gardasil vaccine, which protects against four sexually transmitted viruses, including the type of HPV believed to cause 70 percent of cervical cancers:
1) If the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends next month that Gardasil be considered a “routine” vaccine for girls and young women (the proposed age range is 9-26, and the vaccine is most effective if administered before a woman becomes sexually active), will health plans and child health programs cover the $300-500 cost of this vaccine? If not, for whom will it become “routine” – and who will not benefit from this breakthrough in cancer prevention?
2) As over 98 percent of the 290,000 women who die of cervical cancer each year do not live in the United States, how will Gardasil reach those most in need of this vaccine: young women in the developing world, who also lack access to Pap tests and “routine” health care?
3) Will the Concerned Women of America, a faith-based conservative group that has made the HPV-cancer link a central feature of its abstinence-education efforts – and whose support for FDA approval of Gardasil ran counter to earlier indications that conservatives would oppose this vaccine, fearing that it would encourage sexual activity among teens – now work to ensure that young women in the developing world have access to Gardasil?