Political Intrigue in Merck's HPV Vaccine Push

Haller said the fact that rival GlaxoSmithKline is currently developing a similar vaccine, possibly slated for release this year, may have been the motivating factor behind Merck's aggressive promotion.

Aggressive Promotion May Have Hurt Public Perception

"I think that Merck has been pushing it so hard that [the company's efforts] have perhaps been viewed negatively by the public," said Dr. Mark Groshek of Kaiser Permanente Colorado's Departments of Pediatrics.

"If this reduces the distraction, then I'm glad for that, because people really need to think about this. For all girls, vaccination really does make sense."

However, since the vaccine was approved only last year, some public health experts feel the push for mandatory vaccination may be coming too soon.

"I am in favor of having all girls receive Gardisil, but I do think that it is a little premature for this vaccine to be made mandatory," said Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann of the Community Pediatric Medical Group in Westlake Village, Calif.

"It is still a fairly new vaccine, most pediatricians are losing money giving it -- I know I am in my office -- and parents are still adjusting to the idea. I think they should give it a few years."

HPV Vaccine 'Still Valuable'

Gardasil, the first -- and currently only -- vaccine of its kind on the market, protects against the human papillomavirus. Researchers have connected the sexually transmitted infection to cervical cancer, which kills between 3,000 and 4,000 women annually.

"This is still a very valuable vaccine," Groshek said. "There are enough people who aren't affiliated with the company to say that it is effective and important."

"The important thing here is to look at the purpose of the vaccine," Haller said. "At this point, 3,000 to 4,000 women die every year because of cervical cancer. This vaccine has the potential to prevent 70 percent of these deaths."

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