HPV Vaccine: Is It Safe? Doctors Answer Your Questions

As with girls who have already received a single shot of Gardasil, those who have received two doses will not experience any additional risk if they opt not to have the third shot in the course, doctors said. But Harper noted that those girls who have had two doses of the vaccine already have very little to fear from a third dose if they, their parents and their doctor agree that it is the proper course of action.

"If they've had two doses, they've already swallowed the fish hook," she said. "If nothing bad happened, after the third dose the chances of an [adverse event] are really, really small."

Still, she said, parents, their daughters, and their doctors should probably weigh in the known benefits of the vaccine against the risks of opting for the third dose in the course.

"If they do not receive the three doses, the vaccine does not work at all," she said. "If they stop now, they have no benefit from what they have already done. If they continue, there is still a small probably very small but real chance of something happening after the upcoming dose."

For this reason, Shapiro said, those who have already started the course will probably be encouraged by their doctors to continue.

"We continue to counsel anyone who has already started the vaccine to continue the vaccine, especially if they've had no adverse reactions," Shapiro said.

4) Why are girls the only target of the vaccine?

"They're the ones who get cervical cancer, so they are the ones that we think about in terms of prevention," Johnson said. But he added that because the infection is carried and spread by boys as well, there is a rationale for prevention efforts in boys, too.

But, he added, the recent debate over the vaccine's effectiveness versus its possible risks could affect the debate on this issue as well.

"I doubt they will be going ahead with boys anytime soon," he said.

5) My daughter heard the news about Gardisil; now she is terrified. How, as parents, can we address her concerns?

Johnson said that the best move for parents is to allow their child to become part of the discussion that the family has amongst themselves and with the family doctor. And he said that even the youngest girls who may have received Gardasil shots are probably old enough to understand the issues at play in the editorial which accompanied the report in JAMA.

"Most 11- and 12-year-olds could read it and understand it, I feel," Johnson said. "They should be made part of the family discussion when it comes to reading this editorial and discussing the issue with the family doctor."

Most importantly, Johnson said, parents should take their daughters' concerns seriously.

"The worst thing to do is to shut them out of the discussion and tell them not to worry," he said.

Radha Chitale contributed to this report.

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