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Merck defends Gardasil

Merck has responded to US Republican senator Michele Bachmann's comments that HPV vaccine Gardasil poses a threat to public safety

Yesterday, amidst a political debate, Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann criticised the HPV vaccine, referring to it as a "very dangerous drug" that could lead to "mental retardation". This has sparked fears that the remarks will reduce the already low take-up rates of the US HPV vaccine programme.

The HPV vaccine, marketed by Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) as Gardasil, protects the user against the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against Type 6, 11, 16 and 18, which are the main strains of the virus that cause cancer. Around 12,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, with most cases being caused by types 16 and 18.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that at the of age 11 or 12, girls receive the HPV vaccine before they begin having sex. However this has raised concerns over promoting sexual promiscuity among young girls, a prominent reason for those parents who are against the vaccine.

In retaliation to Bachmann's comments, Merck released a statement on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine. It refers to the vaccine's successful administration to girls around the world and how "Leading national and international health organisations actively monitor and evaluate the HPV vaccine, and they continue to recommend its use."

Merck clarified that last month the Institute of Medicine had checked the HPV vaccine, deeming it "one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal" .

15th September 2011

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