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Some Parents Uncomfortable With Kids Receiving HPV Vaccine

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's back to school time, and that means it may be time to update your child's immunizations.

But as CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, one shot officials say your child should get is a controversial one.

Kiaraliz Rivera has been getting ready to start the fifth grade in a couple of weeks, and her mother brought her into the clinic at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx for the first of three shots against HPV, the human papilloma virus.

"It was good – not nervous," Kiaraliz said, adding that the shot didn't hurt at all.

The vaccine protects against three strains of HPV – the ones that are most likely to cause serious health problems.

"It can lead to various diseases, including cervical cancer, genital warts, as well as some oral and infrarenal cancers as well," said Dr. Paulo Pina of St. Barnabas.

But even though the vaccine has now been shown to cut HPV-related diseases in half in girls who were vaccinated, many parents are uncomfortable because the vaccine is recommended for kids as young as 9. Kiaraliz's mother said the point is to protect the children before they become sexually active.

"It's not that they're having sex," said Arlene Rivera. "It's a mode of prevention, you know? If I can prevent my kids from getting sick now that they're young, when they're older they won't have to be dealing with all this."

Some parents fear that because the vaccine is for a sexually-transmitted virus, it will somehow encourage their children to become sexually active. Again, studies disprove that notion, according to experts.

"They looked over 1,000 girls who received the vaccination, and there was actually no increased risk of starting to have sex at an earlier age," Pina said.

And even though the main benefit is cervical cancer prevention, the vaccine is approved and recommended for boys as well. Brandon Belliard, 13, has just gotten his final shot.

"That simple shot could save your life," he said.

Some parents object because they don't want to have the sex talk at age 9 or 10 when their children get the shots. But Gomez pointed out that parents do not explain polio or tetanus when their children get other immunizations, so they do not have to explain the HPV shot if they feel their children are not ready.

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