A significant number of parents are not allowing their daughters to receive the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine, despite an increase in doctors recommending it. The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given to pre-teen and teen girls and boys over the course of six months to prevent HPV and related conditions, most notably, cervical cancer in women.
Between 2008 and 2010, the percentage of doctors recommending the HPV vaccine rose from 48% to 52%. However, the CDC reports that only around one-third of eligible girls have received the HPV vaccine. In a study of parents not planning on having their daughters receive the vaccine, the percentage of those concerned about its safety increased from 5% to 16% over the course of three years. Another 17% cited the lack of necessity of the vaccine as the reason their daughters won’t receive it.
In response to concerns over the safety of the HPV vaccine, Dr. Joseph Bocchini, a pediatrician on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has stated that “we have not identified a significant likelihood of serious adverse events following vaccine” and that it “is a very safe vaccine.” Claims that the vaccine is not necessary appear weak after identifying what results from HPV. Nearly all instances of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and many cases of vulvar and vaginal cancer are linked to it. This doesn’t mean men are exempt from HPV. 95% of anal cancers and 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers in back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils) are caused by HPV. Vaccinating both boys and girls significantly reduces the risk of them having several forms of cancer in the future.
Increasing education efforts may help increase the rate in which children receive the HPV vaccine. Currently, there is a strong correlation between receiving a doctor’s recommendation and receiving the vaccine. However, many teens do not see a primary care provider regularly in the years they can be vaccinated. Additionally, parents may not know about the vaccine, or feel they don’t know enough about it and how it can help their children. To tackle these problems, education programs that target the general public are necessary.
For more information on the HPV vaccine, click here.