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HPV vaccine promises controversy, cure

If you could give your daughter a shot that would virtually guarantee that she'd never get a deadly disease, would you do it?

It sounds like a simple question, but it's one many parents are asking themselves with regard to the Gardasil shot, a vaccine that prevents certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer. The shot, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006, is recommended for girls as young as 9.

The fact that a vaccine for an STD is being marketed to such young girls has led to significant controversy -- even doctors are looking at it as something different from other vaccines.

Maggie Lewis, of Liverpool, was prepared to get the shot for her 11-year-old daughter, Casey, a sixth-grader at Willow Field Elementary School.

"I wanted to get it for her," Lewis said. "I asked about it at her last checkup, but her doctor said she wouldn't recommend it for her."

Casey's doctor said, given Casey's age, socioeconomic status and low risk for early sexual activity, she didn't need to get the shot just yet. Had she been at higher risk or more likely to become sexually active at an early age, Lewis said, the recommendation would have been different. Lewis said, given that reasoning, she agreed.

"To a certain extent, you can rely on the fact that your 11-year-old is not going to be sexually active," she said. "Given her age and the newness of the vaccine, I figured we can afford to wait a couple of years."

Casey Lewis may be able to wait to get the shot, but others aren't as fortunate. Emily Weinstock, 22, of Oneida decided to have the vaccine after a cancer scare.

"In college, I had to have surgery because I had precancerous cells that lead to cervical cancer and are caused by HPV," Weinstock said. "They removed a section of my cervix."

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