A recent survey of nearly 600 doctors has found that many pediatricians and family doctors are not strongly recommending the HPV vaccine to preteens and their parents, contributing to low vaccination rates. The study, “Primary care physicians’ perspectives about HPV vaccine,” was published in the journal Pedriatrics.
Nearly one in four people in the U.S. are infected with at least one strain of human papillomavirus (HPV), and about 27,000 cancers are likely caused by HPV each year. The virus leads to infections which can cause cervical cancer and penis cancer, as well as mouth and throat cancers.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the HPV vaccine, which is given in three doses, for routine use in girls in 2006 and for boys in 2011.
The committee recommended the vaccine for preteens age 11 or 12 because it is most effective if given before they become sexually active and possibly exposed to HPV.
A research team led by Dr. Allison Kempe of the University of Colorado conducted a national survey among 582 pediatricians and family physicians between October 2013 and January 2014. Using multivariable analysis, characteristics associated with not discussing HPV vaccination were examined.
The results revealed that for 11- and 12-year-old girls, 60 percent of pediatricians and 59 percent of family physicians strongly recommend HPV vaccine. And for 11- and 12-year-old boys, 52 percent of pediatricians and 41 percent of family physicians strongly recommend it.
The results showed that more than one-half of doctors reported that fewer than 25 percent of parents deferred the HPV vaccination. At the 11- and 12-year-old well-child visit, 84 percent of pediatricians and 75 percent of family physicians frequently or always discussed HPV vaccination.
Compared with physicians who frequently or always discuss HPV vaccination, those who occasionally or rarely discussed it (18 percent) were more likely to be male family physicians; to disagree that parents will accept the HPV vaccine if discussed with other vaccines; and to report that 25 to 49 percent, or fewer than 50 percent of parents, defer and express concern about the vaccine.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the knowledge gap of parents about the HPV vaccination and getting more doctors to recommend vaccines are crucial to protect against HPV cancers.
“Ongoing public health efforts may promote positive parental attitudes about the HPV vaccine and reduce physicians’ experience with parental deferral. Because some physicians could be overestimating the likelihood of parental deferral, they should be encouraged to rethink their assumptions about parental attitudes regarding the HPV vaccine and strongly recommend it at every 11- to 12-year-old well-child visit,” the researchers wrote.