Parents Debate Whether To Get Kids HPV Vaccine

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a decision you may be struggling with, should your son or daughter get the HPV vaccine?

It’s a vaccine that prevents cancer, but as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports, many parents are worried about side effects.

Parent Lisa Domschke said, “I thought if there was any way to prevent cancer, why not?”

Her daughter Payton is 14 now. Two years ago, she received the 3-shot series of the HPV vaccine.

“She wasn’t too thrilled with the first shot, complained a little bit that it didn’t feel so good, but the other two, no complaints,” said Domschke.

The list of who benefits most from the vaccine is growing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends boys and girls get the vaccine starting at age 11. Some doctors recommend the shots for younger children and older adults.

Dr. Alfred Guirguis, an oncologist at Rush University Medical Center, said, “Boys were added on the last couple of years. The goal is to prevent anal carcinoma and anal dysplasia, especially in the homosexual population. Really essentially anybody from 9-26.”

According to the CDC, from 2004 to 2008, there were 33,000 HPV associated cancers among both men and women. Cervical cancer was the most common with 12,000 cases every year.

Some parents struggle with giving their kids the shot, because of some reports of serious side effects.

Celeste Nelson let her daughter Shannon start the series, but after just one shot, Shannon developed severe neurological problems. Just 10 days later, she was in the hospital.

“It just progressed so quickly it was unreal. I was basically like a vegetable, lying in the hospital bed like not knowing when I was gonna get out,” Shannon said.

She spent 23 days in intensive care, diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare condition that causes muscle weakness and paralysis.

“I had to learn how to walk, talk, do everything all over again,” she said.

“I’d rather risk the cervical cancer than death, because she could have died,” her mother said.

Of the 40 million doses of the HPV vaccine that have been given in the U.S., the CDC reports 16-hundred severe side effects like Shannon’s.

Dr. Guirguis said, “It is the way to go. It is safe and effective. It works, it’s proven.”

Five years later, Shannon still has residual numbness in her hands and feet. Her mother, Celeste, won’t let her other two daughters get the shot, and wishes Shannon hadn’t.

“I wouldn’t have made the choice. It was really rough,” she said.

Domschke knew the possible risks, but thought of cancer as a bigger threat. Her son Parker is 12. He will get the vaccine this summer.

“I would say to do it. If we can help prevent anything and it’s possible that it’s going to help out I think it’s worth it,” Domschke said.

The HPV vaccine prevents infection with the human papillomavirus, which is sexually transmitted. Some parents have wondered why it’s necessary to give kids the shots long before they are sexually active. The answer is that the vaccine works best and ensures maximum protection if given to younger people.

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