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She noted that only 1 in 4 girls have gotten the vaccine so far, despite compelling medical studies that indicate the shots prevent female cancers.
"When parents are sitting in a room discussing with a pediatrician whether to vaccinate their child against anything, they'd like to know what the potential benefit is. A parent might say 'I'm not inclined to vaccinate my child to prevent a benign genital wart,'" she said.
Government officials have been awaiting this interim analysis from Merck, and are eager to see additional information that may come later on the vaccine's effect on precancerous lesions, said Dr. Lauri Markowitz, an HPV expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's obviously encouraging data but the policy makers will be looking at variety of different issues," including how cost effective the shot would be if used in males, said Markowitz, a medical epidemiologist.
HPV causes at least 20,000 cases of cancer each year, with about a quarter of them occurring in men, according to CDC estimates. Cervical cancer is the most common type, but HPV-associated cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis and head and neck also occur.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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