A federal advisory panel unanimously recommended that female patients ages 11 and 12 receive Merck’s Gardasil as part of routine vaccinations given in that age group.
The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said girls as young as nine, and women up to age 26, should receive the vaccine to protect against cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) even if they have already become sexually active.
Gardasil is designed to protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, which account for 70% of cervical cancer cases and strains 6 and 11, which account for 90% of genital warts cases. There are, however, more than 100 strains of HPV, so Gardasil would not offer full protection against cervical cancer and genital warts.
The panel’s recommendations will next go to the CDC director and the Secretary of Health and Human Services for final approval. These officials often follow ACIP’s recommendations.
The FDA approved Gardasil for use in girls and women ages 9-26last month.
Analysts have predicted sales of Gardasil could reach the $1.5 billion mark -- a figure that could help a beleaguered Merck offset some of the losses it incurred following the withdrawal of its $2.5 billion painkiller Vioxx.