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More Parents Opting Against HPV Vaccine for Daughters

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A growing segment of parents are choosing not to have their daughters vaccinated against HPV—the human papillomavirus, which is associated with some forms of cervical and other cancers—in part because they are worried about whether the vaccine is safe.

A study published online this week in the journal Pediatrics found that from 2008 to 2010 the percentage of parents who were not planning to have their daughters vaccinated against HPV grew from about 40 percent to 44 percent—although doctors were increasingly recommending the vaccine along with other shots. The authors were analyzing data from 2008 through 2010 from the National Immunization Survey of Teens.

Some of the reasons for declining this vaccine for their children: Parents said their children weren't sexually active or that they had concerns about the the vaccine's safety.

There are two different brands of the vaccine for girls, Cervarix and Gardasil. Only Gardasil is available for boys. In several states bills requiring the vaccine have been introduced. Both the District of Columbia and Virginia do require it for girls.

The HPV vaccine, recommended for preteen girls and boys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is most effective before children are sexually active, but some parents worry if their kids get the series of shots, they will feel safe having sex instead of waiting.

As for the vaccine's safety, "there's been a fair amount of anti-HPV coverage in the media," study author Paul Darden, section chief of general & community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, told Parenting.com.

He cited the death of 17-year-old Jessica Ericzon, whose parents believe she was a "guinea pig" for Gardasil. "But it's a safe and effective vaccine," Darden told Parenting.com.

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