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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 21, 2006

New vaccine welcome in fight with cancer

Medical research has yielded another boon: a vaccine that is extremely effective in the fight against cervical cancer, which takes 200,000 women's lives every year.

Gardasil blocks four strains of the human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease and one that causes many cervical cancers. The new treatment is backed by an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration.

If final FDA approval follows as expected, a key committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consider the next step, which may be recommending vaccinations for girls ages 11 to 12. Thats sensible: The cancer risk is best reduced by blocking the virus before girls become sexually active.

Many social conservatives are concerned this will communicate a laxity about sexual practices; at the state level, there are opt-out provisions for parents who feel this way.

Certainly, immunization is no substitute for moral education from a parent. But this does not alter the reality that, for most of the population, general use of the vaccine would be a good public health strategy.