Study: Hesitancy Over HPV Vaccine Varies Among Ethnic, Age Subgroups

The vaccine is used to prevent cervical cancer and other cancers, such as vulvar, vaginal, and oropharyngeal.

A recent study showed that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine hesitancy has either stabilized or increased among certain ethnic and age groups, according to results presented at the virtual 14th AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, held October 6-8, 2021.

The vaccine is used to prevent cervical cancer and other cancers, such as vulvar, vaginal, and oropharyngeal. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for most adults, with the first to be administered before a child’s 15th birthday.

New data have shown that more than half of adolescents in the United States have received 2 or more doses of the vaccine, and according to study lead author Eric Adjei Boakye, PhD, more work needs to be accomplished so that the United States can achieve the 80% completion goal set by Healthy People 2030.

“Parental skepticism regarding the HPV vaccine has been a known driver of suboptimal vaccine uptake in the United States,” Boakye said in the press release.

Boakye and his colleagues aimed to assess whether parental hesitancy has changed over time, and whether parental opinion varied by ethnic or age group.

The team used data from the 2010 to 2019 National Immunization Survey-Teen and identified 16,383 adolescents who had not received any dose of the HPV vaccine. Overall, the results showed that HPV hesitancy decreased from approximately 69% in 2010 to 63% in 2019.

Among the subgroups who showed an increase in hesitancy, the researchers noted the following:

  • The average vaccine hesitancy for mothers with male adolescents decreased 6.17% annually from 2010 to 2012, but remained stable from 2012 to 2019.
  • Mothers with children of Hispanic ethnicity had an average hesitancy decrease of 6.24% per year from 2010 to 2013, but an average increase of 1.19% per year from 2013 to 2019. No significant changes were observed for other races.
  • For mothers 35 to 44 years of age, average vaccine hesitancy decreased 5.88% from 2010 to 2012 and remained stable from 2012 to 2019.
  • For mothers 45 years of age or older, average vaccine hesitancy decreased 3.92% from 2010 to 2013 and remained stable from 2013 to 2019.
  • Mothers who had a college degree or higher had a 6.03% average decrease in vaccine hesitancy from 2010 to 2012, compared with a 6.24% average decrease for those with a high school diploma. Both groups saw hesitancy stabilize after 2012.

“Overall, vaccine hesitancy remains very high in the United States, with almost two-thirds of the parents in our study remaining hesitant about the vaccine as of 2019,” Boakye said in the press release.

He further noted that hesitancy may have been exacerbated by anti-vaccine sentiment in American society and social media disinformation, and that parents who do not want their child to receive the HPV vaccination have several reasons. These reasons include that some feel the vaccine is not necessary; some have concerns about safety; some feel it is not necessary because their children were not sexually active; and some did not have enough knowledge about it, according to the study authors.

Boakye said these study results suggest that public information campaigns should focus on parents who are hesitant about the HPV vaccine and that solutions such as culturally tailored messages could be effective in the Hispanic population, which has a higher rate of cervical cancer. Direct conversations about vaccine safety and efficacy could also help assess fears.

“The HPV vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing HPV-associated cancers. Over 135 million doses have been administered in the United States alone with very few reported adverse effects,” Boakye said in the press release.

He also warned parents to be cautious of disinformation on social media.

“Do not trust everything you read on the internet or social media platforms. If you are in doubt or have a question, please talk to your doctor,” Boakye said in the press release.

One limitation of the study was that it did not follow the same parents over the 10-year time period to evaluate whether their opinions had changed, according to the study authors.

REFERENCE

Hesitancy Over the HPV Vaccine Has Stabilized or Risen in Some Subgroups. American Association for Cancer Research. October 6, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.aacr.org/about-the-aacr/newsroom/news-releases/hesitancy-over-the-hpv-vaccine-has-stabilized-or-risen-in-some-subgroups/