The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of HPV infections that have a high risk of developing into cancer. However, many parents or guardians do not have their daughters vaccinated before becoming sexually active. A new study examined why these adults were not having their children/wards vaccinated in a timely manner. The findings were published online on August 18 in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers conducted interviews with parents or guardians who accompanied their vaccine-eligible 11- to 17-year-old daughters to medical appointments. The interviews were conducted in one public clinic and three private practice settings to determine why the girls did or did not receive HPV vaccination. Questions were directed toward decision-making from the point of view of parents/guardians and healthcare providers. The study group comprised 124 parents/guardians and 37 healthcare providers.
The investigators found that the most common reasons parents or guardians gave for not vaccinating their daughters was the lack of a physician recommendation (44%). Both parents and healthcare providers believed that HPV vaccination provided important health benefits; however, the timing of vaccination with relation to sexual activity was an important factor related to vaccine delay. Healthcare providers with lower self-reported vaccination rates delayed vaccine recommendations in girls whom they felt to be at low risk for sexual activity. In addition, some parents reported that their healthcare providers suggested or supported delaying vaccination until their daughters were older. However, parents/guardians and healthcare providers agreed that predicting the timing of the onset of sexual relations was extremely difficult. In contrast, providers with high vaccination rates informed the girls and parents/guardians that HPV vaccination was a routine vaccine with proven safety to prevent cancer. The parents/guardians responded to this information in a positive manner.
The authors concluded that most parents/guardians and healthcare providers believe that HPV vaccination is important, and that missed opportunities result from assumptions about the timing of vaccination relative to sexual activity. They recommended that HPV vaccination as cancer prevention should be routinely recommended to be coadministered with other vaccines at age 11 years; they suggested that this policy would improve vaccination rates.
The authors are affiliated with: Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts;
Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital–Bedford, Bedford, Massachusetts;
Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Chelsmford, Massachusetts; and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Burlington, Massachusetts.