A recent study has found that 27 percent of physicians do not strongly endorse the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, and those that do endorse do so only to those patients who they believe are already at risk, according to UPI.
HPV infection can cause both cervical cancer and anal cancer, as well genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for all adolescent boys and girls ages 11 and 12, yet some physicians remain selective.
The study, conducted online and published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, sampled 776 pediatricians and family doctors. It found that doctors who thought a patient’s parents were unlikely to favor the vaccination treatment made less effective recommendations for it. Doctors who were uncomfortable discussing sexual transmitted infections with patients behaved similarly.
Another recent study in Texas found that a more informed, more robust outreach program resulted in an increase in the number of children receiving the vaccine, and other studies have confirmed the vaccine’s cancer prevention capabilities. These studies also stress that recommending the vaccination does not encourage promiscuity among teenagers.
“We are currently missing many opportunities to protect today’s young people from future HPV-related cancers,” said Dr. Melissa Gilkey, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a press release. “Helping providers communicate about HPV vaccine effectively is a promising strategy for getting many adolescents vaccinated.”
The study, which assessed doctors on the strength of their vaccine endorsements and timeliness of the vaccination, found that physicians are more likely to offer timely recommendation recommendations for girls than boys. According to the study, 26 percent of doctors are insufficiently timely with girls and 39 are not timely with boys.
“We were surprised that physicians so often reported recommending HPV vaccination inconsistently, behind schedule, or without urgency,” said Gilkey. “Physicians can have a lot of influence on whether adolescents receive the HPV vaccine.”
Results of the study indicated that 59 percent of doctors reported recommending the vaccine based on their own evaluation of a patient’s risk of developing HPV. Only 51 percent of doctors suggested the vaccine be administered during the office visit during which it was recommended.
In Harvard’s press release, Gilkey outlined possible solutions to the HPV vaccine issue. “Our findings suggest that physicians can improve their recommendations in three ways: by recommending HPV vaccination for all 11- to 12-year-olds and not just those who appear to be at risk; by saying the HPV vaccine is very important; and by suggesting vaccination on the day of the visit rather than at a later date.”