More parents of teen girls not fully vaccinated against human papillomavirus
(HPV) are intending to forgo the shots altogether - a trend driven by vaccine
safety concerns, new research suggests.
That's despite multiple studies showing the vaccine isn't tied to any serious
side effects but does protect against the virus that causes cervical cancer,
"There were a lot of very sensationalised anecdotal reports of (girls) having
bad reactions to the vaccine," said paediatrician and vaccine researcher Dr
Amanda Dempsey from the University of Colorado Denver.
"Safety concerns have always risen to the top of the pile, in terms of being
one of the main reasons people don't get vaccinated, which is unfortunate
because this is one of the most well-studied vaccines in terms of safety and is
extremely safe," said Dempsey, who wasn't involved in the new research.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all kids -
both boys and girls - receive three HPV shots as preteens.
Researchers led by Dr Paul Darden from the University of Oklahoma Health
Sciences Center in Oklahoma City got their data from a national immunisation
survey that involved phone calls to almost 100 000 parents.
How the study found
They found that from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of teens who were up to
date on their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MCV4 (meningococcal) and
HPV vaccines all increased slightly.
Still, about three-quarters of girls ages 13 to 17 were not up to date on
their HPV series in 2010. And the proportion of parents of those girls who said
they didn't plan to get their daughters the rest - or any - of their HPV shots
rose from 40% to 44%, the research team wrote.
At the same time, the proportion who cited safety concerns as their reason
for abstaining from getting the HPV vaccine increased from less than five
percent to 16%.
For all three vaccines asked about in the survey, other reasons parents gave
for skipping their teenagers' shots included not thinking they were necessary,
not having had a specific vaccine recommended by a doctor and, for the HPV
vaccine, believing their child was not sexually active.
"These are wonderful vaccines preventing severe diseases," Darden said in an
"HPV is the first vaccine that will prevent cancer which is a tremendous
Dempsey said past research has suggested that although more girls are being
vaccinated against HPV, vaccine rates haven't increased as quickly as for other
shots, such as Tdap.
Darden reports having been a consultant for Pfizer, and one of his co-authors
is on a safety monitoring board for vaccine studies funded by Merck, which makes
Gardasil, one of the HPV vaccines.
Parents shouldn't rely on the media or Internet to learn about vaccines,
according to Dempsey, since it's hard to tell what information is
"If they have questions or concerns, they should trust their provider to give
them accurate information about the vaccine," she said.