The HPV Vaccination Debate
Many believe that the marketing and advertisement as "a cancer vaccine" unfairly played on people's fears. There are other ways to prevent cervical cancer: Don't have sex. That is probably unrealistic, but at least women should understand that cervical cancer is sexually transmitted. Many doctors believe that the recommended age of 11 to 13 for girls to receive the vaccine is probably too young for a number of reasons and that counseling for this vaccine should probably be offered by gynecologists, who are more familiar with HPV-related disease, rather than pediatricians.
In addition, reports of some serious and uncommon reactions in teens after receiving the vaccine are a cause for concern. Statistics on possible side effects are tracked via VAERS, a public database operated in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA. Some reactions cannot be explained by the science and medicine behind the vaccine. Fatal motor accidents and suicides have been linked to the vaccine.
To put the risk into perspective, more than 23 million doses of the vaccine have been given to date, and there have been 770 adverse effects and 32 deaths. However, for girls who believe they were affected by the vaccine, that number is a significant concern. After all, people who get vaccinations are generally trying to prevent disease or illness and are usually healthy.
So What Should You Do?
It comes down to risk versus benefit. No vaccine is without risks. You should discuss both sides of this complicated issue with a doctor you trust. As a gynecologist, as a woman and as a mother, I respect a woman's decision either way.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton is a board-certified ob-gyn who specializes in adolescent gynecology. In March 2009, Dr. Ashton joined CBS as a news medical correspondent. She reports on a broad range of medical topics for CBS News' The Early Show and contributes to the division's other broadcasts and platforms. Dr. Ashton is the author of the upcoming book The Body Scoop for Girls (Avery, January 2010). For more from Dr. Jennifer Ashton, visit cbsnews.com.
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