Doctors recommend getting the HPV vaccine early because it won't work if you've already developed the virus. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 31, 2011)
News 12 This Morning / Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Georgia Health Sciences University professor Dr. Daron Ferris has devoted his career to prevent life-threatening illnesses. He's worked on clinical trials with the HPV vaccine.
"80 percent of us are going to get HPV at some point in our lives," Ferris said. "And it can kill you, so we're missing the boat here."
In the U.S., only half of teenage girls are getting the vaccine to prevent the human papilloma virus which can lead to cervical cancer. Some parents say they are worried about the safety and stigma attached to the vaccine.
"It is along the lines of a sexually transmitted disease, so that does upset you," said Cynthia McCarley, a mother of three daughters. "You don't want to think about things like that with them."
McCarley is a cervical cancer survivor herself.
"Honestly, the scariest moment of my life," she said.
She said it's a disease she never wants her three daughters to experience firsthand.
"For them not to have to go through what I went through," she said.
When it came to the HPV vaccine, she was unsure.
"You just don't know when something is new, you don't know what the side effects are gonna be," McCarley said.
Ferris said they vaccinate young individuals and followed them out for seven years.
"There hasn't been any problems with safety ... which is very exciting news," he said.
After learning more about the studies and talking with doctors, McCarley decided on getting her daughters vaccinated.
"If you can prevent it, than why wouldn't you?" she said. "Nine, 10, 17, it doesn't matter. If you can stop them from someday potentially getting a cancer that could kill them, why wouldn't you do it?"
Back at the GHSU, Ferris said he's disheartened to see patients that could have prevented going under the knife by getting vaccinated.
"Started to see an influx of individuals who unfortunately weren't vaccinated," he said. "They come in to face uncomfortable biopsies and procedures that could have been prevented."
He said he hopes by raising more awareness and helping parents like McCarely understand more about the vaccine, more boys and girls will get vaccinated. The vaccine has been approved for men as well. Doctors say they have the potential of developing cancer from HPV as well.
You must be between the ages of 9 and 26 to receive the vaccines. Doctors recommend getting it early because it won't work if you've already developed HPV.