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New study reveals HPV vaccine hesitancy among parents of teens has increased in the U.S.

An image of a young girl receiving a vaccination. (Photo by Getty Images).
The research also revealed HPV vaccine hesitancy has increased more for parents of girls. (Photo by: Getty Images)
Kalyani Sonawane, PhD. (Photo by: UTHealth).
Kalyani Sonawane, PhD. (Photo by: UTHealth).

A new study documenting an increase in HPV vaccine hesitancy among parents of unvaccinated adolescents despite provider recommendations was published in Pediatrics by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

The study team, using data from the 2012-2018 National Immunization Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that the percentage of unvaccinated adolescents who had received a pediatrician’s recommendation to vaccinate jumped from 27% in 2012 to 49.3% in 2018. Notably, HPV vaccine hesitancy among all parents also went up from 50.4% to 64% from 2012 to 2018.

According to the CDC, HPV is responsible for 34,800 new cancer diagnoses annually. HPV, a very common and highly contagious sexually transmitted infection, is linked to more than 90% of all cervical and anal cancers, more than 60% of all penile cancers, and approximately 70% of all oral cancers. The vaccine provides protection against nearly 90% of cancer-causing infections.

The CDC recommendation for children is a two-dose vaccination regimen, with the first dose administered before age 15, or a three-dose regimen if the series is started between ages 16 and 26. Currently just over half of U.S. teens (51.1%) are fully vaccinated.

The study revealed that from 2012 to 2018, vaccine hesitancy has increased more for parents of girls (from 54.1% to 68.1%). However, the research team also noted an increase among parents of boys as well (from 44.4% to 59.2%). Increase in vaccine reluctance, according to the research team, is due to concerns about the safety of the vaccine.  A recent study reported that the most common reason for HPV vaccine hesitancy among parents is concerns of adverse effects.

“By providing tools to health care providers to better address vaccine hesitancy and vaccine misinformation, and ramping up messaging to remind parents of the importance of HPV vaccination, the health care community can help ensure the U.S. is reaching goals for HPV vaccination,” said Kalyani Sonawane, PhD, the study’s first and corresponding author and an assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health.

The research team also noted recent data, which reveals that many people are not aware of the link between HPV and anal, penile, and oral cancers.

Other UTHealth School of Public Health authors include Yenan Zhu, MS; Yueh-Yun Lin, MS; Haluk Damgacioglu, PhD; and Ashish Deshmukh, PhD, MPH. Ying Lin, PhD, of the University of Houston, and Jane Montealegre, PhD, with Baylor College of Medicine, were also co-authors.

Funding was provided by a grant from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (R01CA232888).

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