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Parents unsure of HPV vaccine for daughters

Parents who refuse consent worried about vaccine safety and girls' age

OnMedica staff

Wednesday, 05 May 2010

Many parents remain unconvinced that their daughters should have the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at around 11 years old. Several types of reason were given for their lack of consent, report researchers from Canada in a study on PLoS Medicine this week.

A random sample of parents of year 6 girls (aged 10-11 years) who had been eligible for free, school-based HPV vaccination in the 2008-09 academic year in British Columbia were asked to complete a survey about their reasons for accepting or refusing vaccination for their daughters; 2025 parents responded.

Almost two-thirds of these girls (65.1%) had had their first dose of the HPV vaccine – far fewer than the 88.4% whose parents said they had consented to them having the hepatitis B vaccine, and 86.5% meningococcal C.

Of parents who had consented to their daughters being vaccinated against HPV, almost half (47.9%) said this was because of the effectiveness of the vaccine, 8.7% said it was on a doctor’s advice and 8.4% said it was because of concerns about their daughter’s health.

The most common reason that parents gave for refusing consent for their daughters receiving the HPV vaccine was concern about vaccine safety (quoted by 29.2%), followed by preferring to wait until their daughter was older (15.6%) and not having enough information to make an informed decision (12.6%).

The researchers say that a positive parental attitude towards vaccination, and a parental belief that HPV vaccination had limited impact on sexual practices, increased the likelihood of a daughter receiving the HPV vaccine. Having a family with two parents or three or more children and having well-educated parents decreased the likelihood of a daughter receiving the vaccine.

The study authors conclude that even when financial and healthcare barriers are removed, some parents remain hesitant to have their daughters receive the HPV vaccine and so policymakers must develop and implement strategies to ensure optimal HPV vaccine uptake. They say: “Further studies are needed to discover why, for example, parents with more education are less likely to agree to vaccination than parents with less education.

“Importantly, the findings of this study, which are likely to be generalisable to other high-income countries, indicate that there is a continued need to ensure that the public receives credible, clear information about both the benefits and long-term safety of HPV vaccination.”

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