A new study suggests common misperceptions about the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine is putting kids more at risk for dangerous health problems by choosing not to get them vaccinated.
The HPV vaccine helps prevent sexually transmitted diseases as well as certain types of cancer including cervical, head, neck and throat cancer.
Even with universal recommendations, only 35 percent of females ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. get the vaccine.
A mother of three, Linda Hamilton said the best way to stay healthy isn't so much relying on vaccines.
“I try to stick with natural health care and let the body heal itself,” said Hamilton.
She said her daughter won't be getting the HPV vaccine when she reaches the recommended age.
“(It's just) personal preferences,” said Hamilton. “Also, just trying to educate my daughter on healthy sexuality.”
But that's not the case for Joy Fieving's two daughters.
“I just think it's important just like going in for your yearly pap spear, going in for breast exams, going in for immunizations, it's part of what we do to help keep us safe,” said Fieving.
A new study from Mayo Clinic suggests mixed reviews from parents could be preventing more kids from getting vaccinated.
“I think the numbers are going up, but I still think it's one that lags behind a lot of immunizations we give," said Margaret Grenisen of Mayo Clinic Health System.
The study suggests one of the biggest misconceptions is the vaccine isn't needed.
Yet, about 12,000 unvaccinated women develop cervical cancer every year.
Some parents also think getting kids vaccinated as young as 12 could be encouraging sexual behavior, but Grenisen said the age just indicates when the body is ready.
“The immune response is better, so when they're exposed to the HPV virus the mounted response won't give them an infection,” said Grenisen.
Changing perceptions about the HPV vaccine will take time, but Grenisen hopes more will see the benefits before it’s too late.
“It's not just preventing cancer, but some of these things that occur that result in a lot of testing and return to clinics and a lot of anxiety and worry,” said Grenisen. “So if we can prevent those, I think everybody is ahead.”
The study says about 110,000 doses have been given out in the U.S. with very minimal side effects including some irritation and achiness.
The study also suggests more than half of the people in the U.S. will be infected with HPV. While most will fight off the infection in a two-year period, those who don't, develop percancerous and cancerous cells.