In the News: The HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer, but Most Kids Don’t Receive It

The human papillomavirus vaccine can prevent as many as 90% of six potentially lethal cancers. The vaccine only works if administered prior to becoming infected by the virus, which means prior to any sexual activity. Unfortunately, much like vaccines for COVID-19, parents are proving resistant to allowing the vaccination of their children.

According to a report cited by The New York Times, despite doctor recommendations and protection against HPV infection that could lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva, throat, anus and penis, parental intent not to vaccinate their adolescents against the virus rose from 50.4% in 2012 to 64% in 2018. Parents were most resistant (68.1%) to vaccinating girls, the group for whom the vaccine was initially developed to prevent cervical cancer.

The Collaboration for Vaccine Education and Research (CoVER) resource was established to enhance vaccine education. It helps PIDS members through increased knowledge and competency for communicating with patients and patients’ families about vaccination. Specifically, the HPV module reviews key facts about diseases caused by HPV and how the vaccine can prevent infections.

Additionally, Dr. Martin Meyers’s new book, Immunization Information: The Benefits & The Risks, is a resource for parents who have questions about vaccines and are trying to make informed decisions for their children. Dr. Myers explains vaccine risks and benefits in understandable, everyday language.

Findings noted in the article from British and Australian researchers confirm the efficacy of the virus in preventing the cancers the vaccine was intended to limit. However, convincing parents to get their children vaccinated has proven problematic. Many parents are fearful of the message the vaccine may send regarding sex and have encountered significant misinformation about the HPV vaccine online. Doctors could potentially sidestep many of these obstacles by focusing on the vaccine’s anticancer role and inclusion in the list of vaccines routinely administered to adolescents.

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