HPV vaccination rate slows with parental concerns

March 18, 2013

Three-quarters of teenaged girls are not up-to-date on the vaccination series for human papillomavirus (HPV) because their parents have concerns about vaccine safety, according to a national survey on immunization.

Three-quarters of teenaged girls are not up-to-date on the vaccination series for human papillomavirus (HPV) because their parents have concerns about vaccine safety, while some parents plan not to have their daughters complete the shots or even forego them altogether, according to a national survey on immunization.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2008-2010 National Immunization Survey of Teens that questioned why parents do not have their children immunized with tetanus toxoid/diphtheria toxoid/acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), and HPV vaccine. Survey data suggest that immunization rates overall are improving but are still below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 90%.

Full immunization with 3 doses of HPV among girls aged 13 to 17 years, however, is substantially lower than immunization rates for the other vaccines. Parents frequently attributed their failure to immunize their daughters against HPV to 4 reasons: Their daughter is not sexually active, their daughter is not the appropriate age, they have concerns about vaccine safety or adverse effects, or other reasons. The percentage of parents who planned not to complete HPV vaccination for their daughters or to forego the shots completely for safety reasons rose from 4.5% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2010.

The HPV vaccine protects against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Researchers say that parents who reason against vaccination for HPV because their daughters are not sexually active or who believe that the HPV vaccine is needed only if there is current sexual activity are not taking advantage of this protection. They suggest that physicians and health care providers focus on spending time with families to explain why this vaccine is important for both girls and boys and to strongly recommend full completion of the series of 3 shots.

The HPV vaccine also protects against genital warts. A recent study from Sweden found that the incidence of genital warts declined by 93% among girls who were given the HPV vaccine before they were aged 14 years, compared with a 50% decline among those vaccinated when they were aged older than 20 years.