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What Parents Should Know About the HPV, or Cervical Cancer, Vaccine

Does your daughter need the HPV vaccine to help protect against cervical cancer? Get the latest medical information on the HPV vaccine here.

What Concerns Do Parents Have about the HPV Vaccine?

What are some objections to the vaccine? Here are some concerns you may have, along with responses to these concerns.

  • The HPV vaccine does not have a long track record of safety and effectiveness. Over time, unintended problems may emerge.

Researchers have tested the vaccines in more than 11,000 females, ages 9 to 26, around the world. They've concluded that the vaccines are safe and cause no serious side effects. The FDA has reviewed the studies and agrees. The main side effect of the HPV vaccine was mild pain at the injection site. The vaccine contains no mercury or thimerosal.

  • Many states now require the vaccine for middle-school girls, which may infringe on parental rights.

If states do make the HPV vaccine mandatory, you may have a choice to opt out by reading the vaccine literature and signing a form.

  • The vaccine may give girls a false sense of security, or it may subtly encourage sexual activity.

You can explain that the HPV vaccine is a cervical cancer vaccine. It only protects against some types of HPV that lead to cancer. It offers no protection against HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

You can also discuss factors that increase or decrease risk of HPV infection. According to the American Cancer Society, these factors increase HPV risk:

  • Having sex at an early age.
  • Having many sexual partners.
  • Having a partner who has had many sexual partners.

The CDC recommends that girls and women, even after vaccination, continue to practice "protective sexual behaviors:"

  • Abstinence.
  • Monogamy.
  • Limiting the number of sexual partners.
  • Using condoms, which offer some, but not complete, protection against HPV, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections.

Remember that although your daughter may lower her risk through abstinence and monogamy, she could still get HPV after a sexual assault or from an infected spouse. Infection can result after even one sexual encounter.

Regular Pap Smears: Another Way to Fight Cervical Cancer

Whether or not you give your daughter the HPV vaccine, one thing is clear: Regular Pap smears remain crucial for fighting cervical cancer. Even girls and women who receive the HPV vaccine aren't protected from all cancer-causing HPVs. Pap smears find early changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer. Catching problems early provides the chance for more effective treatment.

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