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Study: Parents Resist HPV Vaccinations for Teenage Daughters

Many feel vaccine is unnecessary or worry about side effects (Mar. 17)

A rising percentage of parents say they won’t have their teen daughters vaccinated to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, even though physicians are increasingly recommending adolescent vaccinations, a study by the Mayo Clinic shows. More than 2 in 5 parents surveyed believe that the HPV vaccine is unnecessary, and a growing number worry about potential side effects, researchers found. The new findings were published in Pediatrics.

The investigators looked at three vaccines routinely recommended for U.S. teens: a vaccine to protect against sexually transmitted HPV; Tdap vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis; and meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). While the up-to-date immunization rates rose for all three vaccines, the proportion of girls fully immunized against HPV (three doses over 6 months) was substantially lower than the proportions for the other two vaccines.

Five years ago, 40% of parents surveyed said they wouldn’t vaccinate their girls against HPV. In 2009, that figure rose to 41%, and in 2010, to 44%.

“That’s the opposite direction that rate should be going,” said senior researcher Robert Jacobson, MD.

The proportion of parents concerned about the safety of the HPV vaccine increased from 5% in 2008 to 16% in 2010, while less than 1% worried about the safety of the Tdap and MCV4 vaccines, the study found. During the same years, more and more studies demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in this age group, according to Jacobson. The vaccine prevents cervical cancer and other genital cancers by preventing the HPV infections that lead to those cancers, he said.

Researchers analyzed vaccination data for girls aged 13 to 17 years in the 2008–2010 National Immunization Survey of Teens. They found that as of 2010, 80% of teenagers had received the Tdap vaccine, and roughly 63% had received the MCV4 vaccine. In comparison, only about one-third of girls were immunized against HPV.

“HPV causes essentially 100% of cervical cancer, and 50% of all Americans get infected at least once with HPV. It’s a silent infection. You cannot tell when you’ve been exposed or when you have it,” Jacobson explained. “While most HPV infections clear, a percentage linger and start the process of cancerous changes. The HPV vaccine is an anti-cancer vaccine.”

Jacobson said the vaccine is more effective in younger adolescents than in older teens. The Mayo Clinic routinely starts the series at age 9.

Source: Mayo Clinic; March 17, 2013.

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