Views & Reviews Personal View

(Not) warts and all

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 23 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2186
  1. Phil Hammond, general practitioner, writer, and broadcaster
  1. hamm82{at}

    “You’d be mad not to protect your daughter against genital warts if you can afford to.” So advised Peter Greenhouse, a sexual health consultant in Bristol, when I asked him which human papillomavirus vaccine I should choose for my daughter. The NHS vaccination programme may have opted for the bivalent vaccine (Cervarix) to concentrate resources on preventing cervical cancer, but every doctor I’ve spoken to has chosen the quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil) for their own daughters (and the odd son, though of course this is off licence).

    Genital warts are common (100 000 new cases in England each year), and the condition is on the rise, particularly among young people: in women 60% of cases occur in the 16-24 years age group. They don’t kill you, but they can kill your sex life, and in some people they can be recurrent and extensive. The health minister Dawn Primarolo claims that warts are “preventable,” but meticulous condom use cuts transmission of the human papillomavirus by only 50%. A far safer option is to vaccinate.

    The NHS Choices website ( promotes Cervarix but doesn’t return a single hit for Gardasil. Having chosen one vaccine for …

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