Forty Percent of Parents Surveyed Don’t Know the HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Cancer
New York, NY — Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University has released new data on parents’ understanding of HPV and the HPV vaccine, showing that parents need more information about the vaccine and why it is important to vaccinate their children for HPV.
Each year 14 million people become newly infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013 only 37.6 percent of girls and 13.9 percent of boys ages 13-17 got all three recommended doses of the HPV vaccine. While HPV sometimes goes away on its own, it can persist and cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, or oral cancer in both women and men.
“Parents need to understand that the HPV vaccine can prevent cancer,” said Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This survey shows that 40 percent of parents are not aware that HPV can cause cancer or that the HPV vaccine can prevent cancer. Over half did not know that HPV can cause cancer in boys and men, as well as girls and women. As parents, we feel a responsibility to keep our children safe and healthy. The HPV vaccine is currently one of only two vaccines available capable of preventing certain types of cancer, so it’s important that parents make the decision to vaccinate.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and CLAFH surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,663 pairs of parents with children aged 9-21. The poll was conducted in July 2014 by GfK Custom Research, LLC on behalf of Planned Parenthood and CLAFH.
The survey data was released yesterday in a story. "Vaccines are a hot-button topic right now—and there is so much fear surrounding them," says Michele Promaulayko, Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Health. "We wanted to help educate parents about the potential benefits of the new HPV vaccine to empower them to make an informed decision."
The survey data shows that parents lack a basic understanding of HPV, of how HPV is transmitted, and that HPV can cause cancer in both men and women:
The data also revealed that the lack of information regarding HPV and the vaccine is contributing to parents’ decisions about whether to vaccinate their children against HPV:
“There is clearly a huge lack of public understanding,” said Kantor. “Despite being one of the most important public health advances in recent years, this survey shows that a substantial number of parents still don’t understand that children should be vaccinated years before they’re sexually active.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen incredibly harmful misinformation on vaccines in this country that have led to unnecessary worries for parents. The fact is that we have many studies showing that there is no link between the HPV vaccine and increased sexual activity, yet it continues to be an unfounded concern for some parents. The more accurate information parents have about the safety and benefits of the HPV vaccine, the better protected our children will be from HPV-related cancers."
“Parents should consider the HPV vaccine an important tool in their efforts to keep their children healthy,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, RN, co-director of CLAFH. “Parents need more targeted education efforts on the benefits of the HPV vaccine for their adolescent children. We also need to encourage proactive communication between parents, adolescents, and healthcare providers about the benefits of HPV vaccination and sexual and reproductive health check-ups.”
As both a provider and an educator, Planned Parenthood sees firsthand the need to educate parents and teens about the HPV vaccine, and plays a key role in providing vaccinations. In 2011, HPV vaccination became a core service, and affiliates are required to provide it at least one health center. Today, the vast majority of Planned Parenthood health centers provide the HPV vaccine (more than 550 of approximately 700 health centers provide it), and in 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers provided the HPV vaccine to 35,000 people.
As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood offers education programs for young people and parents across the country. In 2013, Planned Parenthood provided education and outreach to over 1.5 million people of all ages across the country, and every day, Planned Parenthood works in schools and communities to provide comprehensive sex education programs, which both parents and teens overwhelmingly support.
BACKGROUND ON THE HPV VACCINE:
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
The Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at the NYU Silver School of Social Work investigates the role of parents in shaping the development and well-being of adolescents. Our research addresses key issues among Latino and other families and seeks to foster the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce problem behaviors among youth.