FDA Approves Gardasil 9 HPV Vaccine

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gardasil 9, a new vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine is expected to become available in February 2015. Gardasil 9 protects against 9 types of HPV, more than the vaccines already on the market, Gardasil and Cervarix. Those vaccines protect against the 2 types of HPV that cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers. (Gardasil also protects against 2 more types that cause genital warts.) The new vaccine will protect against approximately 90% of cervical cancers, while still providing protection against genital warts.

Debbie Saslow, PhD, American Cancer Society director of breast and gynecologic cancer, says people who have already gotten the vaccine are still well protected against cervical cancer and don’t need to be re-vaccinated.

“While there is some extra protection with the new vaccine, the most aggressive cancers are caused by strains 16 and 18—the ones protected by the already available vaccines,” said Saslow. “Also keep in mind that because even the new vaccine does not protect against 100% of cancers, screening will still be necessary.”

Gardasil 9, like the other 2 vaccines, is given as a series of 3 shots within 6 months. Saslow says people who have already started the series should continue to get the next doses on schedule. She says eventually, the original Gardasil will be phased out. The other vaccine, Cervarix, may still be available, but it is not widely used currently in the US.

Gardasil 9 also increases protection against other cancers caused by HPV, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

The American Cancer Society recommends HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 to 12, although girls as young as 9 may receive the vaccine, and it’s also recommended for girls ages 13 to 18 in order to catch up on missed vaccines or complete the series. The American Cancer Society does not yet have recommendations for vaccination of boys, but is reviewing the scientific evidence. Updates to American Cancer Society recommendations for the use of HPV vaccines will likely be published later in 2015. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for both boys and girls ages 11 and 12.

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