What are Gardasil and Cervarix?
The Gardasil vaccine, which is produced by Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck), is called a quadrivalent vaccine because it protects against four HPV types: 6, 11, 16, and 18. Gardasil is given through a series of three injections into muscle tissue over a 6-month period. The FDA has approved Gardasil for use in females for the prevention of cervical cancer, and some vulvar and vaginal cancers, caused by HPV types 16 and 18 and for use in males and females for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11. The vaccine is approved for these uses in females and males ages 9 to 26.
Cervarix is produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It is called a bivalent vaccine because it targets two HPV types: 16 and 18. This vaccine is also given in three doses over a 6-month period. The FDA has approved Cervarix for use in females ages 10 to 25 for the prevention of cervical cancer caused by HPV types 16 and 18.
Both Gardasil and Cervarix are based on technology developed in part by National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists. NCI, a component of the National Institutes of Health, licensed the technology to two pharmaceutical companies—Merck and GSK—to develop HPV vaccines for widespread distribution.
Neither of these HPV vaccines has been proven to provide complete protection against persistent infection with other HPV types, although some initial results suggest that both vaccines might provide partial protection against a few additional HPV types that can cause cervical cancer. Overall, therefore, about 30 percent of cervical cancers will not be prevented by these vaccines. Also, in the case of Gardasil, 10 percent of genital warts will not be prevented by the vaccine. Neither vaccine prevents other sexually transmitted diseases, and they do not treat HPV infection or cervical cancer.
Because the vaccines do not protect against all HPV infections that cause cervical cancer, it is important for vaccinated women to continue to undergo cervical cancer screening as recommended for women who have not been vaccinated. How effective are the HPV vaccines?
Gardasil and Cervarix are highly effective in preventing infection with the types of HPV they target. Studies have shown that both Gardasil and Cervarix prevent nearly 100 percent of the precancerous cervical cell changes caused by the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine for up to 4 years after vaccination among women who were not infected at the time of vaccination (5, 6, 7). Will booster vaccinations be needed?
Studies are under way to determine whether booster vaccinations (supplementary doses of a vaccine, usually smaller than the initial dose or doses, that are given to maintain immunity) are necessary. How much do these vaccines cost, and will insurance pay for it?
The retail price of Gardasil is approximately $120 per dose and $360 for the full series. Individual or group insurance plans are subject to state laws, which generally establish coverage based on recommendations from the ACIP. Medicaid coverage is in accordance with the ACIP standard, and immunizations are a mandatory service under Medicaid for eligible individuals under age 21. Medicaid also includes the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides immunization services for children 18 and under who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, underinsured, and receiving immunizations through a Federally Qualified Health Center or Rural Health Clinic, or who are Native American or Alaska Native. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines - National Cancer Institute