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Vaccine for HPV will be available in area soon

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

A cervical cancer-prevention vaccine should be available at area health departments within two months, said Immunization Program Director Andrea George.

Gardasil, a vaccine made by Merck & Co., protects against four types of human papillomavirus, or HPV, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

Because HPV is generally transmitted through sex, health officials recommend females receive the vaccine before sexual activity begins.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Gardasil vaccine for females ages 9-26.

The vaccine is on backorder from the State Vaccine Distribution Center in Montgomery, but the first shipments to the Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone Health Departments will probably arrive within two months, said George.

Females ages 9-18 who do not have insurance, or are on Medicaid or are Alaskan natives or American Indians, will be eligible for the vaccine under the federally funded Vaccines for Children program.

George said females who do not fall into one of those categories should check with their health-care providers.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said in February that he is asking legislators for $4 million to give the Health Department the ability to provide the vaccine to females ages 11-19 who don't qualify for the Vaccines for Children program or can't get it through their doctors or other avenues.

The funding remains in the budget and would allow health departments to provide 10,000 HPV vaccinations annually, he said.

If approved, the funding would be available for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Immunizations would be voluntary.

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