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Cervical Cancer Vaccine

By: Elizabeth Kaledin, CBS News
By: Elizabeth Kaledin, CBS News

Up until now our best weapon against cervical cancer has been the annual pap test, but now a new vaccine is showing signs it could offer groundbreaking protection.

The vaccine known as Gardasil was given to 12,000 woman in 13 countries. It managed to prevent the cervical cancer causing virus HPV 100 percent of the time.

Dr. Eliav Barr of the Merck vaccine program says, "I think this is a really major advance for women worldwide. This is the second leading cause of cancer in women and there's been nothing available to prevent the infection that causes this cancer."

The majority of cervical cancers are caused by some form of the HPV virus. It's the most common sexually transmitted virus, yet one few young people like Erin Schwartz have ever even heard of.

Erin has participated in the vaccine trial for three years. Researchers say the idea behind the vaccine will be to educate and protect young women when they become sexually active

Dr. Jacob says, "The key is to provide the protection to young people during their most active sexual period, which is roughly from 15 to 30."

The vaccine is controversial though. Several groups who advocate sexual abstinence believe it will promote promiscuity, but Erin Schwarts says parents need to wake up to the realities and protect their kids from cancer.

"I believe that women are sexually active younger than most parents want to believe is the truth, but it's the truth. If you can protect them before they get infected with HPV, I don't see why not."

Merck, which funded the vaccine trial, hopes to have Gardasil FDA approved and on the market by 2006.


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