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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Parents' Worries About HPV Vaccine on the Rise

Doctors puzzled by the growing safety concerns, because shot guards against virus that can cause cervical cancer


As for safety concerns, 4.5 percent of parents said that was one reason their daughter had not been vaccinated in 2008. In 2010, more than 16 percent blamed safety worries.

"I'm not sure what has gone into that increase," Darden said. "Why would safety concerns almost quadruple in a couple years?"

What's more, he noted, the worries seem specific to the HPV vaccine. Parents in the study were also asked about two other vaccines recommended for teenagers: the "Tdap" vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough; and the "MCV4" vaccine against bacterial meningitis -- a potentially fatal inflammation around the brain and spinal cord.

Across the study period, less than 1 percent of parents cited safety concerns over those two vaccines.

The findings come from a CDC survey of U.S. families with 13- to 17-year-old children, done over three years. Parents were asked open-ended questions about their reasons for not vaccinating their child.

Both Darden and Cunningham said it's puzzling that parents' safety worries about the HPV vaccine would grow so much, so fast. It's not clear from the study, but Cunningham said he suspects many parents get misinformation online.

"There's a lot of unreliable vaccine information out there," he said.

According to the CDC, the most common side effects of the HPV vaccine are the same as with other vaccines: pain at the injection site, dizziness, mild fever. There have been cases of fainting reported -- but, Cunningham said, that can happen after any vaccination, especially to teenagers.

The agency has also gotten reports of blood clots in people who received the vaccine. But more than 90 percent of them also had risk factors for blood clots -- such as smoking or using birth control pills, the CDC said.

Parents in this study did have other reasons for not wanting their daughters vaccinated. Just over 17 percent said it was "not necessary," and 11 percent said their daughters did not need the vaccine because they were not sexually active -- an erroneous assumption, Cunningham said, because the HPV vaccine should ideally be given before a girl is sexually active.

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