"Faced with declining sales for Gardasil, the controversial -- and so far only -- vaccine for prevention of human papillomavirus, Merck & Co. is planning to boost the drug's visibility during the key back-to-school shopping period beginning this month," reports Advertising Age. "Merck is participating in vaccination-day events with physicians' offices, clinics and nursing groups by offering supportive resources such as posters, mailers, consumer material and pocket cards that coincide with the time when kids and young adults typically get physicals before school starts in September." U.S. and worldwide sales of Gardasil have declined significantly since last year. On a recent "earnings conference call," Merck's executive vice-president of global human health, Ken Frazier, blamed the decrease on "saturation" of the "prime target of girls ages 13 to 18." So Merck is "firmly committed to achieving greater vaccination rates in the 19-to-26 age group," said Frazier, even though the vaccine must be administered before the onset of sexual activity to provide optimal protection. Merck has also asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve Gardasil for "use in boys and men ages 9 to 26 to prevent external genital lesions ... and for use in women ages 27 to 45." Merck's heavy lobbying of states to require Gardasil vaccinations -- including through the group Women in Government -- has been widely criticized.