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Health Experts Puzzled As More Parents Are Denying Children HPV Vaccine

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Dr. Rachael Herlihy talks with CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Dr. Rachael Herlihy talks with CBS4’s Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – A new study shows a growing number of parents with safety concerns are not letting their children get the vaccine that prevents cervical cancer. Experts call that worrying and puzzling.

Colorado parents are known for being anti-shot. One survey ranked the state second in the nation for vaccine refusal. So it’s not surprising Coloradans are reluctant when it comes to the HPV vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil in 2006 for females nine through 26 years old. Cervarix was approved in 2009. The vaccines protect against cervical and other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Monica Marshall will have her daughter vaccinated.

“Because I feel it’s very important for overall health long term,” Marshall said.

Dianne Betkowski isn’t sure what she’ll do for her three girls.

“My concerns are neurological damage, mainly,” Betkowski said.

Findings from the new U.S. study show parents seem to be increasingly worried about the vaccine’s safety. From 2008 to 2010 more girls were vaccinated against HPV, but the number of parents who said they would not vaccinate their daughters grew from 40 to 44 percent.

“There are certainly adverse events that can happen with any vaccine, but the HPV vaccine is a very safe vaccine,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said.

Herlihy directs the immunization program for the Department of Public Health.

“If you look at the data, more than 80 percent of individuals are actually exposed to HPV during their lifetime,” Herlihy said.

But she says in Colorado and nationally just 30 percent of young women have been vaccinated against HPV.

“It causes cancer, and so to say that this isn’t something you want to protect your child against is really unfortunate, I think,” Herlihy said.

State health is campaigning to get teens to take action and “do something easy today.” That means “get vaccinated.”

The vaccine is given in three doses. Most insurance plans and Medicaid cover it. Experts recommend it not only for girls, but in 2011, they added boys and gay and bisexual men. It is best to get it before any sexual activity begins.

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