Doctor, Parental Assumptions Can Delay Delivery of HPV Vaccine, Study Says

The vaccine protects against a sexually-transmitted infection that can cause cancer in men and women.

Talking with your kids about sex can be awkward for all involved, but new research from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) suggests that not talking about it may be even worse.

In a study published in the August 18 issue of Pediatrics, researchers found that parents and clinicians who make assumptions about a teenager’s sexual activity were more likely to delay vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted infection which, according to the CDC, can cause a variety of cancers in both men and women.

According to a BUSM report, this is how the study was conducted:

The researchers interviewed 124 parents and 37 health-care providers at four clinics between September 2012 and August 2013. Parents and providers were asked to discuss their reasons why their HPV vaccine eligible girls did or did not ultimately receive the vaccine. Remarkably, the most common parental reason (44 percent) was that their child was never offered the vaccine. Other common reasons included the perception that the vaccination was optional instead of recommended or being told by their provider that it was unnecessary prior to sexual debut. Among those that declined the vaccine, the rationale often involved safety concerns and a belief that their daughters were too young to need it.

The study also showed that clinicians who administered the most HPV vaccines offered them as a “routine part of the age 11 vaccine bundle” and also “framed the conversation as one about cancer prevention” when recommending the vaccine to parents, according to the report.

“Emphasis on cancer prevention and concurrent administration with other routine childhood vaccines has the potential to dramatically reduce missed opportunities occurring among well-intentioned providers and parents,” assistant BUSM professor Rebecca Perkins said in the report.

The CDC recommends that girls and boys ages 11 or 12 receive the vaccination. For those who were not vaccinated at those ages, catch-up vaccines are available for females through age 26 and men through age 21.