Controversial HPV vaccine in short supply in Louisville

By Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE) -- Human papillomavirus is one of the most common causes of sexually transmitted infection in the world, but it's now preventable, thanks to a new vaccine. Some states now require girls to get the vaccine. Indiana lawmakers are pushing for a similar, but one that is more voluntary. The vaccine -- Gardasil -- has caused a lot of controversy, but as WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle investigates, it's in short supply in Louisville.

Jacqueline Golson, a cervical cancer survivor, recently stressed to a panel of Texas politicians just how important Gardasil. "We are talking about a different kind of medicine. We are not talking about diagnosis and a cure. We are talking prevention."

The latest controversy is coming out of Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry is mandating that every girl entering sixth grade receive the HPV vaccination.

And with all the attention focused on the politics, its "protection" that's getting over shadowed -- according to local physicians.

"Once women understand that this is a very common virus and that this vaccine can really protect them, you don't really see it as controversial anymore," said Dr. Rebecca Booth with Women First of Louisville.

Booth says confused parents tend to focus on the words "sexually transmitted."

"People don't realize that every wart on the human body is caused by HPV," Booth said. "So there are over 100 varieties of HPV, even planter warts, warts on the hands are caused by HPV."

Booth says she spends a lot of time educating her patients on the virus and vaccine. And all the negative controversy surrounding Gardasil isn't proving to have any side effects.

In fact, in Louisville, it's so popular that supply isn't keeping up with demand.

"We have been short a couple of days, and patients get on a list, but we do get refills very fast," Booth said.

So what happens to the supply and demand if more politicians follow Texas' lead?

"I don't think there is any danger of a national shortage," Booth said, adding that the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the vaccine, Merck, will be prepared, "They've gone all-out on their advertising campaign, so I'm sure they're ready to meet the demand."

The pharmacists who supply Baptist Hospital East told WAVE 3 they've never experienced a shortage.

But the shortages are more likely in private practices, such as at Women First.

Gardasil is recommended for girls between the ages of 9 through 26, and is most effective when administered before girls become sexually active.

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Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever