Gender differences play a role in lack of HPV vaccination

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Gender differences play a role in lack of HPV vaccination

Physicians need to give parents of boys and girls a strong recommendation

New Orleans, LA (March 24, 2018) — Parents are less likely to vaccinate their adolescent boys than girls with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and they are twice as likely to report their main reason as a lack of provider recommendation, according to a study presented today at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology 2018 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer.

One in five parents of adolescent boys report that they do not intend to vaccinate their child with the HPV vaccination primarily because they did not get a recommendation to do so compared to one in ten parents of adolescent girls, reported Anna Beavis, MD, MPH, an SGO member and gynecologic oncologist fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

The HPV vaccine protects adolescents from HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer as well as other cancers such as vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, mouth and throat cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all children between the ages of 11 and 12 to be vaccinated. It can be given as three doses if started after the child’s 15th birthday, or just two doses if started before, Dr. Beavis said.

The statistics presented by Dr. Beavis are from the National Immunization Survey-Teen (NIS-Teen), a national survey of parents of adolescents aged 13 to 17 years old that is used to track vaccination rates in the United States. The survey, collected in 2015, contains reported reasons why parents do not vaccinate teens.

“It is clear that physicians need to give a strong recommendation to both parents of boys and girls,” Dr. Beavis said. “They also need to remind parents of the importance of getting all doses, which makes the vaccine the most effective in preventing HPV.” Dr. Beavis’s presentation also pointed to parents’ general concern about the vaccine for both genders.

“In general, the most common reason parents do not vaccinate both boys and girls was a misperception that the HPV vaccine is not necessary, which is reported by 20 percent of parents of girls and 10 percent of parents of boys,” Dr. Beavis said. Her presentation also showed that 13 percent of parents of both boys and girls have a lack of knowledge about the vaccine.

Again, Dr. Beavis pointed to the importance of physicians’ educating parents on the necessity and safety of the vaccine. In her study, parents of girls were more likely to report a concern about safety or side effects, and a concern for their child’s current lack of sexual activity compared to parents of boys.
In the United States, the HPV vaccine was FDA approved for use in girls in 2006 and boys in 2009, and is recommended as a routine childhood vaccination for the prevention of HPV-related cancers.

For example, Australia is close to eradicating cervical cancer according to the International Papillamavirus Society. According to an article published by the Guardian titled “Australia could become first country to eradicate cervical cancer,” “78.6 percent of 15-year old girls and 72.9 percent of 15-year old boys have been vaccinated” in the country.

“Unfortunately, HPV vaccination rates in the U.S. continue to lag behind those of other Westernized nations,” she said. “The most recent data from 2016 NIS-Teen shows that only 65 percent of girls had initiated the HPV vaccination compared to 56 percent of boys.”

In Dr. Beavis’s opinion, a strong recommendation from a physician could change that.

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The Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) is the premier medical specialty society for health care professionals trained in the comprehensive management of gynecologic cancers. As a 501 (c) (6) organization, the SGO contributes to the advancement of women’s cancer care by encouraging research, providing education, raising standards of practice, advocating for patients and members and collaborating with other domestic and international organizations.