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Plan to expand HPV vaccine underway

November 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death among women worldwide. So a conference was in session on Monday to discuss a statewide plan that would expand access to the human papillomavirus vaccine.Whether to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for girls before entering 6th grade is a controversial proposal many states are grappling with. It helps protect against four strains that cause nearly 70 percent of cervical cancer. It is most effective if administered before the girl is sexually active.

"There is no reason why any woman should have to go through this anymore with this vaccine that's been made available," said Shaundra Hall, who survived cervical cancer.

Some California lawmakers tried, and twice failed, to mandate HPV vaccines. The concerns were that it is too new to know any of the long-term consequences. In addition, it forces parents to discuss the sexually transmitted virus to daughters when they are as young as 9 years old.

Medical professionals and public health workers met in Sacramento to discuss how to get more California girls vaccinated.

"It's a terrible disease to live through, and some people die from it. So if parents want their children to be protected against cancer, they should have their children get this vaccine," said Dean Blumberg, M.D., Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

Maya Mathur did her own study among 200 Bay Area pre-teen and high school girls. She found education might produce more participation in the vaccination effort. The high school senior got the vaccine herself, but didn't know the importance of it.

"The doctor just said I'm going to give you the HPV vaccine. Here's a fact sheet about it, and he gave it to me. My parents were involved in the decision, but I wasn't," said Mathur.

The other hurdle is cost. The vaccine is $120 per dose, given three separate times over six months, and not all health plans cover it.

There has been some concern about side effects from the HPV vaccine. At least one family claims it may be responsible for their child's death.

The Centers for Disease Control recently completed a study of all such accusations and gave the vaccine its full blessing.

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