A new vaccine which will protect women against four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) known to cause cervical cancer will be available within weeks in the UK.
The vaccine provides protection against four types of HPV or human wart virus and is aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
Experts want all women between the ages of nine and 55 to receive jabs against the disease, with an annual programme set up to vaccinate adolescents in schools and say it should be given to girls before they become sexually active to maximise their protection.
But already some are saying the vaccine should be given to both sexes as men can pass on the virus to their sexual partners.
The vaccine Gardasil, was licensed in June by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in women and girls 9 to 26 years of age.
A government advisory committee has also recommended the vaccine for women who have had abnormal pap smears, genital warts or certain other conditions.
However Dr. Bradley Monk, associate professor in gynecologic oncology at the University of California at Irvine, says the vaccine should be a universal vaccine and given to girls and boys and all women and men, regardless of their individual risk factors.
But some groups in the U.S. are opposing mandatory shots for school children and say parents should decide whether to immunize their children against a sexually transmitted virus and believe the vaccine will encourage promiscuity.
Dr. Monk dismisses that argument completely and says that to not use a vaccine which prevents cancer would be one of the greatest tragedies.
The virus which can also cause cancer of the penis is responsible for as many as 3,000 cases of cervical cancer in Britain each year.
Gardasil which is manufactured by drug company Merck has been found to be 100 per cent effective against the two main strains of the virus which trigger most cervical cancers.
Gardasil, has received a green light from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use just seven months after applying for a licence and the European Commission is now expected to grant an authorisation for marketing by September.
The decision by the European medicines watchdog will increase pressure for a mass vaccination programme to be brought in by the end of the year.
Experts want all women between the ages of nine and 55 to receive jabs against the disease, with an annual programme set up to vaccinate adolescents in schools.
Such a programme could reduce the need for smear tests - and significantly reduce the incidence of the cancer, which kills 1,000 British women each year.
The cost of the vaccine is expected to cost around £60 per dose, with patients needing three treatments.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.