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As the debate heats up over the HPV vaccination for young girls (pushed heavily by Merck), it should be mentioned that the normal tort laws for injuries from the product do not apply to vaccines. They can injure and kill and there is no liability. There is a federal compensation system, however, and the whole scheme is designed to promote vaccinations. That’s ok as long as vaccinations are truly necessary.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has issued guidelines for the use of the prophylactic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical neoplasia (CIN) and cervical cancer. The new guidelines, published in the January/February issue of the Cancer Journal for Clinicians, address who should be vaccinated and at what age, and summarize policy issues regarding the vaccine.

“Cervical cancer screening has successfully decreased squamous cell cervical cancer incidence and mortality,” write Debbie Saslow, PhD, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues. The American Cancer Society (ACS) Guideline for the Early Detection of Cervical Cancer was last reviewed and updated in 2002; for the first time, those recommendations incorporated options including liquid-based cytology and human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing. Since that time, two vaccines against the most common cancer- causing HPV types have been developed and tested in clinical trials.”

Specific recommendations for HPV vaccination are as follows:

Routine HPV vaccination is recommended for girls 11 and 12 years old.
Girls as young as age 9 years can receive HPV vaccination.

HPV vaccination is also recommended for teenaged girls 13 to 18 years old to catch up on missed vaccine or to complete the vaccination series.

The evidence is insufficient at this time to recommend for or against universal vaccination of women 19 to 26 years old in the general population. A decision about whether to vaccinate a woman 19 to 26 years old should be based on an informed discussion between the woman and her healthcare provider regarding her risk for previous HPV exposure and her potential benefit from vaccination. Ideally, the HPV vaccine should be administered before potential exposure to genital HPV through sexual intercourse, because the potential benefit is likely to decrease with an increasing number of lifetime sexual partners.

HPV vaccination is not currently recommended for women older than age 26 years or for males.

Screening for CIN and cervical cancer should continue in both vaccinated and unvaccinated women, according to current ACS early detection guidelines.

“The protective effect of vaccination that is successfully provided to adolescent and young women who are unlikely to undergo regular Pap [Papanicolaou] screening will be of greater magnitude than that provided to women who will undergo regular screening regardless,” the authors conclude. “Even as HPV vaccination for the prevention of cervical cancer is introduced and promoted, it remains critical that women undergo regular screening regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.”

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