SGO 2018: Gender Differences May Play a Role in Lack of HPV Vaccination

Key Points

  • 1 in 5 parents of adolescent boys report 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 1 in 10 parents of adolescent girls.
  • The most common reason parents do not vaccinate both boys and girls is a misperception that the HPV vaccine is not necessary, which is reported by 20% of parents of girls and 10% of parents of boys.
  • 13% of parents of both boys and girls lack knowledge about the vaccine.

Parents are less likely to vaccinate 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 at the 2018 Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer.

Primary Findings

Approximately 1 in 5 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 1 in 10 parents of adolescent girls, reported Anna Beavis, MD, MPH, an SGO member and gynecologic oncology fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

In the United States, the HPV vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in girls in 2006 and in boys in 2009; it is recommended as a routine childhood vaccination for the prevention of HPV-related cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children between the ages of 11 and 12 be vaccinated for HPV. 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 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 parents of girls,” Dr. Beavis said. “They also need to remind parents of the importance of getting all doses, which makes the vaccine most effective in preventing HPV.”

Dr. Beavis’ 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 is a misperception that the HPV vaccine is not necessary, which is reported by 20% of parents of girls and 10% of parents of boys,” Dr. Beavis said. Her presentation also showed that 13% of parents of both boys and girls have a lack of knowledge about the vaccine.

Physician Recommendation Needed

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.

“Unfortunately, HPV vaccination rates in the United States continue to lag behind those of other Western nations,” she said. “The most recent data from 2016 NIS-Teen shows that 65% of girls had initiated the HPV vaccination compared to 56% of boys.” In Dr. Beavis’s opinion, a strong recommendation from a physician could change that.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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