Parents, physicians ponder HPV vaccine - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Parents, physicians ponder HPV vaccine

February 27, 2007

Dougherty County -- Senate Bill 155 would require girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus- commonly known as HPV.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease which can cause cervical cancer, and it is much more widespread than you might think.

The CDC estimates that 20 million Americans have the virus, and that at least 50 percent of sexually active people will catch it during their lifetime. The chance to prevent cancer in girls is encouraging, but many parents and religious groups worry that it could send the wrong message about sexual activity at such a young age.

Lisa Baggett is a mother of two girls, a Christian, but still is considering having her girls take the vaccination against human papillomavirus.  "It is something that my daughters probably will do, but it's because we choose to prevent cancer in the future, not because of their being sexually active."

Baggett knows the vaccination could prevent cervical cancer, which is deadly, but worries about the message it sends to young girls. "Kids are having sex younger, they are teaching kids that it's OK to do that."

Dr. Bruce Smith says the vaccination's potential is great, even if it is hard for parents to talk about. "Not to talk about it, and pretend like it's not happening, and pretend they don't need the vaccine because they won't have sex, it seems unreasonable. "

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to review the bill. As written, the bill would provide an exemption for parents who oppose the vaccine on religious grounds.

Dr. Glen Schultz, headmaster of Sherwood Christian Academy said "We believe very much these issues are parental responsibility issues. And to try and legislate them is a concern."

The vaccination requires three shots over a six month period, and costs about $400. Many lawmakers are concerned how poor or uninsured families could pay for it, but doctors say it could save money and lives in the long run.

 "But if we can reduce the number of cervical pap smears women have to get when they are older, because they have had the vaccine, that may be the down side of the expense of all this," Dr. Smith said.

Georgia is one of 18 states considering a law to require the cancer vaccine for girls.

  • More info from the CDC here.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=HPV/JW

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