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Vaccinating "catch-up" campaigns for women in their 20's, however, would not be cost-effective, the researchers said. They didn't calculate cost-effectiveness of vaccinating women ages 27 to 45, but a trend seems clear, said Jane Kim, the study's lead author.
"As you get older, the vaccine becomes less cost-effective," she said.
Experts believe that the earlier a female is vaccinated, the better the odds she will avoid HPV-caused cervical disease, thus lowering health-care costs down the road.
Even though Merck can't promote its use for them, women older than 26 can get the shot from their doctors, as part of an "off-label" use. An individual woman may decide that getting vaccinated is worth it even if vaccinating everyone her age isn't considered cost-effective, some policy experts noted.
Many women in their 30s and 40s have not been exposed to the HPV types in the vaccine and could benefit from the shots, said Dr. Richard Haupt, Merck's executive director for Gardasil research.
GlaxoSmithKline PLC has developed another HPV vaccine, called Cervarix, which it sells in other countries. That vaccine has not yet been approved for the U.S. market.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://nejm.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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