HPV Vaccine Hesitancy Remains High Among US Parents

By Megan Brooks

October 12, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Hesitancy over the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine remains high among parents in the United States, with almost two-thirds of parents on the fence about getting their child vaccinated, according to a new study.

The HPV vaccine was approved in the U.S. in 2006. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for most adolescents, with the first dose given before age 15 years. However, uptake of the HPV vaccine has lagged far behind that of other routine vaccinations.

"Parental skepticism regarding HPV vaccine has been a known driver of suboptimal vaccine uptake in the United States," noted Dr. Eric Adjei Boakye of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, in Springfield, in a presentation of the findings at the AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.

He and his colleagues used national immunization survey data 2010 to 2019 to see whether HPV vaccine hesitancy has changed over the years. Participants included more than 16,000 parents of unvaccinated adolescents.

The parents were asked: "How likely is it that your teen will receive HPV shots in the next 12 months?" Parents who said "not too likely," "not likely at all," or "not sure/don't know" were deemed vaccine hesitant.

Overall, vaccine hesitancy dipped from 69% in 2010 to 63% in 2019, on an annual basis, vaccine hesitancy decreased 6% from 2010 to 2012 and then increased slightly (0.6%) from 2012 to 2019, Dr. Boakye reported. Among the key findings in subgroups:

- Average vaccine hesitancy for mothers of male adolescents decreased 6.17% annually from 2010 to 2012 but remained stable from 2012 to 2019.

- Mothers with children of Hispanic race 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, with no significant changes observed in other races.

- Among younger mothers aged 35 to 44, average vaccine hesitancy fell 5.88% from 2010 to 2012 and remained stable from 2012 to 2019.

- Among mothers 45 or older, average vaccine hesitancy dropped 3.92% from 2010 to 2013 and remained stable from 2013 to 2019.

- Among mothers with a college degree or higher, there was a 6.03% average decrease in vaccine hesitancy from 2010 to 2012, compared with a slightly higher average decrease of 6.24% among peers with a high school diploma. Vaccine hesitancy stabilized after 2012 in both groups.

Dr. Boakye noted that HPV vaccine hesitancy may have been exacerbated by anti-vaccine sentiment in American society and social media disinformation. Some parents who don't want their child vaccinated against HPV feel it's not necessary and others cite concerns about safety and lack of knowledge about the vaccine.

"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," Dr. Boakye said in a conference statement.

"Going forward, we need to address vaccine hesitancy" in order to achieve federal HPV vaccination goals, Dr. Boakye told the conference. This could include increasing vaccine confidence among parents through provider recommendations; strengthening public trust in the healthcare system; eliminating or reducing barriers to getting the vaccine; and tackling disinformation on social media, he said.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3FtWpTJ AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, presented October 6, 2021.