February 28, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Georgia's Senate will soon decide whether to vaccinate girls as young as twelve years old for HPV, the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.
A local college has done more research on this topic than perhaps anyplace else.
For the last decade, MCG has been researching HPV and ways to prevent it, and it's those studies that have helped further this bill.
"This is great to have a cancer vaccine to prevent cancer," said Dr. Daron Ferris, a local expert on HPV. "There's no question in my mind it's safe."
Over the years, News 12 has documented his research on a vaccine called gardisil.
"Pretty much had a shot every...I think it was three shots over a certain amount of time, and that was it," said research participant Suzanne Scoggins. "And then came back every once in a while for a checkup."
Suzanne is one of thousands of women who've been vaccinated, an effort spearheaded by Ferris and his colleagues.
MCG has done some of the most comprehensive HPV research anywhere. In fact, one of their recent studies had the highest enrollment in North America.
Partly due to their findings, the state senate will now consider required vaccinations for eleven and 12-year-old girls, a move only one other state has made.
The proposed legislation has caused debate over whether it would encourage sexual behavior.
"I think that maybe a higher age, like eighth grade, would probably be better than sixth," said Cami Rof.
"We want to get on board beforehand, allow the body to make antibodies to protect itself from getting HPV," Dr. Ferris said.
Sho Ane Seaton likes the idea.
"They should pass that, you know?" she said. "They should. Because it's related to women's health and it's really important."
"Every day that you wait is maybe a day too late," Dr. Ferris said.
The bill passed yesterday 8 to 3, and now it heads to the full senate.
Most of the opponents are with religious groups and think the decision should be left to the parents to make, not the government.
Cervical cancer strikes more often than you might think. More than 11,000 women will be diagnosed this year, and roughly 3600 women will die from it.
1 in 4 US women will be affected between the ages of 14 to 59.
For more information on HPV, or to take part in future tests, you can contact Dr. Ferris' office at (706) 721-2535. You can also click here for information on HPV from the Centers for Disease Control.