Parents’ Misconceptions About The HPV Vaccine Are Keeping Vaccination Rates Low

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Parents’ ongoing misconceptions about the HPV shot and doctors’ reticence to strongly recommend the vaccine are keeping HPV vaccination rates low among Americans boys and girls, according to a comprehensive analysis of 55 studies from 2009.

Earlier research has shown that just 30 percent of women receiv the full recommended course of three shots by the time they turn 26. That’s compared to about 54 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys who receive at least one recommended shot, and just 6.8 percent of boys who receive all three vaccinations.

The new analysis shines some light on the reasons behind these disparities. For instance, many parents say they skipped out on the shots because they thought their children were too young to receive them, or because their doctors never actively recommended HPV vaccination. Doctors, for their part, say they often feel that it isn’t their place to recommend the shots to adolescents — even though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises young people to start getting vaccinated around age 11 or 12. Researchers say doctors will have to be more forceful about their recommendations to increase vaccination rates.

“‘Offering’ the HPV vaccine is not the same as ‘recommending’ the HPV vaccine in the same manner as the other important adolescent vaccines,” said lead study author Dawn Holman in an interview with Bloomberg. “A true vaccine recommendation is more accepted by parents than a vaccine offering.”

Other studies have found that some parents are scared off from the vaccine as a consequence of bogus studies claiming that the shot is unsafe. Just 5 percent of parents who didn’t vaccinate their daughters against HPV in 2008 cited safety concerns as their primary reason. That number was up to 16 percent by 2010.

The vast majority of medical professionals attest to the HPV vaccine’s safety and consider it a necessary precaution against cervical cancer and genital warts.