The vast majority of Americans haven’t been vaccinated against HPV and are unsure about the shots’ effectiveness in preventing cancers, according to new data from the Health Information National Trends Survey.
The new study found that just one in three U.S. girls and one in 20 U.S. boys has received the full recommended course of three shots of the HPV vaccine. Furthermore, a full 70 percent of respondents said they weren’t sure whether or not the vaccines prevent cancer.
“Perceptions about the HPV vaccine may be contributing to these trends,” said lead study author Dr. Kassandra Alcaraz. “This uncertainty may influence decision-making about getting vaccinated, and it hinders our ability to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality and reduce disparities in cervical cancer.”
HPV is associated with almost all vaginal cancer cases, 95 percent of anal cancer, 65 percent of vaginal cancer, and 60 percent of oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
A separate recent analysis of 55 studies on the HPV vaccine have found similar gaps in knowledge about the HPV vaccine, mostly due to parents’ misconceptions about the vaccine’s safety in young children — at times driven by fear-mongering over the shot — and doctors’ reticence to bring up the subject of vaccination with adolescents. The new data suggests that awareness of the vaccine’s benefits in curbing cancer may also contribute to low vaccination rates.
Even the relatively low number of U.S. boys and girls getting their HPV shots has made a big difference. Teen HPV rates have been cut in half since the vaccine went public seven years ago.