Parental concerns about sexual activity declining as reason not vaccinating children against HPV: Physicians need to discuss benefits of vaccine

Adapted Media Release

Concern about sexual activity
is declining as a reason parents do not get their daughters the human
papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, according to a research study presented at the
Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s 2017 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer.
Instead, according to a study
presented by 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 percent of all cervical cancer could be prevented if all
adolescents were vaccinated,” Beavis said. “Yet unfortunately,
vaccination rates in the U.S have lagged considerably behind those of other
Westernized nations.”
The data presented compared
the National Immunization Survey, or NIS-Teen, data, from 2010-2014, 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
From 2010-2014, the top two
reasons were the 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 percent of parents reported adolescents lack of sexual
activity a reason, but in 2014 it dropped to 9 percent.
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, Beavis said.
Yet, the data shows that parents need to understand the necessity and safety as
well as the benefits of cancer prevention.
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,” Beavis said. “Our
focus should be on cancer prevention.”

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.