WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A quarter of girls aged 13-17 in the United States received Merck & Co’s Gardasil vaccine last year to protect against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, the U.S. government said on Thursday.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the first look at how many adolescent girls are getting the vaccine, which won approval in June 2006 for preventing cervical cancer and genital warts in young women and girls aged 9-26.
Based on data on about 3,000 girls nationwide, the CDC said 25 percent had received at least one dose of the three-shot series in 2007, which translates to about 2.5 million girls.
Just under a third of adolescents got shots against potentially deadly meningitis, another new vaccine.
“It generally takes about seven or eight years before you can go from a new vaccine all the way to having 90 percent coverage rate, which would be the eventual target,” Dr. Lance Rodewald, head of the CDC’s division of immunization services, said during a conference call with reporters.
“In general, we’re quite pleased with the results at 25 percent. But it points out that we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Rodewald said the CDC did not have estimates on how many women up to age 26 were getting the vaccine.
Gardasil targets four strains of the human papillomavirus, also called HPV, a common sexually transmitted virus that causes genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer.
Merck said in a statement it is encouraged by the CDC findings “but more needs to be done to help protect the other 75 percent.”
More than 18 million Gardasil doses have been distributed in the United States. Merck has said it expects the vaccine to reach between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion in 2008 sales.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc makes a rival vaccine, Cervarix, but said in June it did not expect to win U.S. approval for it until late 2009.
Common side effects from the vaccine include those seen with other injections such as fainting and injection pain as well as headache, nausea and fever, the FDA said.
Some consumers, doctors and others have raised questions about Gardasil’s safety but the FDA and CDC said the most serious adverse events did not appear linked to the vaccine.
The survey provided estimates for two other vaccines recommended at age 11 or 12 — the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (whooping cough), or Tdap, vaccine, and the meningitis vaccine.
It showed that 32 percent had received Sanofi-Pasteur’s MCV4 meningitis vaccine, up from 12 percent in 2006, and 30 percent received the Tdap vaccine, up from 11 percent in 2006.
Editing by Maggie Fox and Vicki Allen