A doctor at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne has proposed to test a cervical cancer vaccine in babies, with a view to adding the vaccine to the infant immunisation program.
The vaccine is currently being given to schoolgirls as part of the trials in which Suzanne Garland, the director of microbiology and infectious diseases at the hospital, has herself played a leading role.
She is now making a US visit to meet representatives from the drug companies that make the vaccine. She will discuss with them the proposal to conduct trials in babies up to a few months old.
Professor Garland conducted company-funded trials for CSL's vaccine Gardasil and the rival GSK's vaccine Cervarix, the two companies that have her on their advisory boards. She is of the opinion that there are benefits to immunising babies instead of schoolgirls.
According to her, vaccination of babies can particularly be beneficial for the Third World countries, where many girls do not finish school. It could also be easier to vaccinate Australian infants instead of schoolgirls, she says.
Since the vaccine has so far been tested only in children as young as 10, there is need to first test its effectiveness and safety in infants, Professor Garland concedes.
She feels that it is possible to combine cervical cancer vaccine with another so that babies were spared from too many jabs. However, it is yet unclear as to for how long the vaccine's effect will last, and whether babies will require booster shots years later.
Frank Bowden, a sexual health physician at the Canberra Hospital, said that the priority for infant immunisation should be to prevent childhood diseases.
He, however, admitted that the vaccine could become a part of the childhood schedule one day.
"By the time that happens you would want to have more experience with that vaccine," Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying.