June 30, 2006 -- Posted at 4:54 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO, AR -- Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine that can help prevent cervical cancer.
Now the question is: when should we start giving this vaccine to pre-teen girls?
Thursday an FDA advisory panel recommended targeting 11-to-12 year old girls for the vaccine.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, one that's been shown to lead to cervical cancer.
"99% of the people that have cervical cancer, it directly links back to being exposed to the human papillomavirus," said pediatrician Bryan Harvey.
Health officials say that more than 50 % of sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV in their lifetime.
"The more we can do to protect against that ever being contracted, or the person developing that disease, then the more we are going to be able to reduce the rate of cervical cancer," said Harvey.
Nearly 4,000 women die of cervical cancer every year. That's why health officials are working to encourage the use of this vaccine, especially in young girls.
"The age group that we see the most in clinic that are already receiving vaccines are children going from the 6th grade to the 7th grade, which is about 11 to 13 years old," said Harvey.
Doctor Harvey said because girls in this age group are already receiving other vaccines it only makes sense to include this one as well.
"We've ordered the vaccine and it's still pending. We've had a number of families who have called and have asked for when the vaccine is available, and we just keep a waiting list," said Harvey.
This vaccine is approved for girls' age 9 and above, and health officials say that parents should not be worried about future side effects because the technology behind this vaccine is just like any other vaccine they're currently receiving.
"The vaccine is just now being approved, the safety trials have been done so the vaccine is very effective and its very safe," said Harvey.
Because the vaccination is new, it's still very expensive. The vaccination is a three shot series that runs anywhere from $300 to $350.