Sexual Activity Assumptions Contribute to Lower HPV Vaccination Rates

Parental and provider assumptions about sexual activity onset contribute to low HPV vaccination rates, the results of a study suggest.

Parental and provider assumptions about sexual activity onset contribute to low HPV vaccination rates, the results of a study suggest.

Personal assumptions by both parents and health care providers regarding the onset of sexual activity can lead to lower human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates.

According to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, providers who believed a child was at low risk for sexual activity were more likely to delay vaccine administration, despite the providers admitting that their assessments might not be accurate. Furthermore, vaccination deferrals were never readdressed at future visits, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, providers with high vaccination rates viewed the HPV vaccine as a routine part of vaccine bundles, and framed the conversation with parents as one about cancer prevention.

“Emphasis on cancer prevention and concurrent administration with other routine childhood vaccines has the potential to dramatically reduce missed opportunities occurring among well-intentioned providers and parents,” Rebecca Perkins, MD, study lead author, said in a press release.

The research appears in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

The most common reason parents did not vaccinate their children was that they were never offered the vaccine, researchers said. Additional reasons included the perception that the vaccine was optional, or being told by a provider that it was unnecessary prior to sexual activity.

Parents who declined the vaccine cited safety concerns and the belief that their daughters were too young to need it.

Researchers interviewed 124 parents and 37 health care providers at 1 clinic and 3 private practice settings, and asked participants to discuss the reasons vaccine-eligible girls did or did not receive the vaccine.