DALLAS, Texas — Emily Rosuck, 14, is going to get the HPV vaccine. But at first, it was hard to convince her mother that she and her three siblings needed it.
"I didn't feel like there were enough long-term studies about it," mother Stephanie Rosuck said. "I was concerned about a number of issues that made me delay the decision to get my oldest daughter immunized until I thought we couldn't delay any more. If we were going to do it, we had to do it."
Seven years after the HPV vaccine was approved, many parents still need convincing.
A study in the journal "Pediatrics" said two in five parents believe the immunization is unnecessary. According to the study by the Mayo Clinic and others, 40 percent of parents surveyed in 2005 said they wouldn't vaccinate their daughters.
Five years later, 44 percent still say "no" to the HPV vaccine.
Pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard said safety is the top parental concern.
"Their kids aren't sexually active. 'I'll wait until they are sexually active,'" Dr. Hubbard said.
Dr. Hubbard said she spends a lot of time convincing parents that the vaccine doesn't give children the green light to become sexually active. What it does do is prevent the virus responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers, 80 percent of anal cancers, 60 percent of vaginal cancers, and some oral and throat cancers.
Gardasil and Cervarix are the two vaccines currently approved.
Studies show the younger the patient, the better the vaccine works. Boys and girls can now get the HPV vaccine starting at age nine. Three doses over six months are recommended to get the best protection.
The vaccine only works before a child becomes sexually active.
"Sexual activity is hard for parents — me included — to wrap your arms around, and it doesn't always mean intercourse," said Dr. Hubbard. "There's other types of sexual activity involving touching, and that can also lead to HPV."
Hubbard said she believes doctors should spend more time educating parents about the advantages and safety of the HPV vaccine.
"I think this is a good vaccine," she said. "I've given it to all my children, who were adolescents at the time."
The pain and side effects Emily Rosuck had heard about the vaccine turned out be hype.
"There was no pain," she said, "and it was easy."
Her mother said she's glad her four girls will have the best shot at avoiding certain types of cancer.
"I don't want them getting cancer on my watch," Stephanie Rosuck said. "If it's something that can be prevented, I feel like it's my obligation as a parent."