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SGO 2017: Parental Concern About Lack of Sexual Activity Declining as Reason Not to Vaccinate Children Against HPV

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Key Points

  • From 2010­–2014, the top two reasons were the concerns regarding safety and side effects and the belief the vaccine is not necessary.
  • The third most common reason, adolescents’ lack of sexual activity, dropped as a reason for parents not vaccinating.
  • In 2010, 18% of parents reported adolescents’ lack of sexual activity as a reason, but in 2014, it dropped to 9%.

Parental concern that a child is not sexually active is declining as a reason parents do not vaccinate their children against papillomavirus (HPV), according to a study presented by Beavis et al at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s (SGO) 2017 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer (Abstract 5).

Instead, according to lead researcher Anna Beavis, MD, MPH, an SGO member and gynecologic oncologist fellow at Johns Hopkins University, parents continue to not see the vaccine as a necessity and are concerned about side effects and safety. The HPV vaccine, introduced in 2006, is used to prevent adolescents from contracting the HPV virus, which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer in women, as well as several other cancers.

“With the new nine-valent vaccine, almost 90% of all cervical cancer could be prevented if all adolescents were vaccinated,” Dr. Beavis said. “Yet, unfortunately, vaccination rates in the United States have lagged considerably behind those of other Western nations.”

Survey Findings

The data presented was from the National Immunization Survey, or NIS-Teen, from 2010 to 2014, which reported on U.S. parents’ responses to a question about why they did not vaccinate their daughters against HPV and did not intend to in the next 12 months.

From 2010­ to 2014, the top two reasons were concerns regarding safety and side effects and the belief the vaccine is not necessary. Yet, the third most common reason—adolescents’ lack of sexual activity—dropped as a reason for parents not vaccinating. According to the data, in 2010, 18% of parents reported adolescents’ lack of sexual activity as a reason, but in 2014, it dropped to 9%.

Prior literature has shown that physicians often delay or do not discuss HPV vaccination with parents because they feel they would also have to address sexual activity, Dr. Beavis said.  

Additionally, the vaccine produces a stronger immune response in younger children, and thus only two shots instead of three are recommended if the vaccine is given to children under the age of 15.

“Physicians should not be afraid to discuss the HPV vaccine with parents,” Dr. Beavis said. “Our focus should be on cancer prevention.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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