On November 1, the U.S. government added the new cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, to the federal Vaccines for Children program, which provides free vaccines to low-income and uninsured children. Assuring that this relatively expensive vaccine is affordable to all girls and young women in the government-recommended age range of 9–26 is essential, given its high level of effectiveness in preventing infection with the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.
In the coming months, state-level policymakers are likely to turn their attention to policy initiatives requiring female students to receive the vaccine prior to attending school. These debates, and the question of whether HPV is “different” from other diseases traditionally targeted by vaccine school-entry requirements, may have implications for a host of future vaccines under development, such as those for Alzheimer’s and diabetes. And the high cost of the HPV vaccine may also trigger a useful discussion on how to finance Americans’ full access to childhood and adult vaccinations.
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