Not enough children getting HPV vaccine, Mayo doctors say

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An increasing number of adolescents are being vaccinated for the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, but the number is lagging behind expectations, the Star Tribune reports.

That's according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, co-authored by Dr. Robert Jacobson of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Why? Doctors fear that parents are being overly sensitive to fears of side effects from the HPV vaccine.

And physicians also say parents are concerned that vaccinating their children could spur them to become more sexually active, even though a major study last fall concluded that was not true.

Five years ago, 40 percent of surveyed parents said they wouldn't vaccinate their girls against HPV. In 2009, that rose to 41 percent, and in 2010, to 44 percent, according to a Mayo press release.

"That's the opposite direction that rate should be going," Jacobson, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, said.

Most HPV infections don't lead to cancer, but some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, Mayo doctors say. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of genital HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer, according to Mayo. The vaccine is typically given to children ages 11 or 12.

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