False Beliefs Preventing HPV Vaccination: Study

Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 03:06 PM

By Nick Tate

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Many parents don't believe they need to vaccinate their kids against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease tied to ovarian and cervical cancer, and that is a dangerous "misperception" has kept vaccination rates low, according to a new Mayo Clinic study.
 
The findings, published in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, suggest parental perceptions are the primary barrier to acceptance of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination — and that many of those perceptions are wrong.
 
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"The greatest misperception of parents is that the HPV vaccine isn't needed," said Mayo Clinic's Robert Jacobson, M.D., a pediatrician in the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. "Not only is that wrong, it's a dangerous idea to be spreading around.
 
"Recent figures show that at least 12,000 unvaccinated women develop cervical cancer from HPV every year. Other incorrect perceptions: The HPV vaccines are not safe, and they are given to children when they are too young."
 
The researchers advise doctors and clinicians to talk to parents about their concerns, share details on the latest scientific studies showing HPV vaccines to be safe and effective, and strongly recommend vaccination.
 
Currently available vaccines include Gardasil (Merck & Co.) and Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline), both of which prevent cancers caused by the virus HPV. In the United States, about 21,000 individuals develop such cancers each year, including cancers of the cervix and throat.
 
Despite universal recommendations for their use since 2006, only about one in three 13- to 17-year-old females have completed the three-dose vaccines in 2011 and 2012.
 
More than half of individuals living in the U.S. will otherwise become infected with HPV, a disease transmitted by sexual contact. Most clear the infection over a two-year period, but those who do not develop precancerous and cancerous cells.
 
The authors point out that HPV vaccines were found safe before they were licensed for production, and follow-up studies since conducted in hundreds of thousands of recipients continue to support that finding.
 
The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the vaccines for 11- to 12-year-old girls and boys, but allows clinicians to begin vaccinating as early as age 9.
 
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The vaccines give long-lasting immunity, and the younger children have a better response to the vaccine than older adolescents or young adults. Vaccinating when the adolescents are young completes the series long before exposure and takes advantage of their better immune response.

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