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Study: Doctor Recommendations for HPV Vaccine Should Be Stronger to Raise HPV Vaccination Rates


Every year, there are 33,700 new cancers in the US related to human papillomavirus (HPV) and 4,175 women die of cervical cancer, a cancer which is almost entirely attributable to HPV. However, immunization rates for the HPV vaccine remain relatively low – only 53% of girls and 44% of boys complete the HPV vaccine series. A study, “HPV Vaccine Delivery Practices by Primary Care Physicians,” in the October 2019 Pediatrics, found that many doctors are still not giving the HPV vaccine their strongest, most persuasive recommendation. Researchers for the study, which is published online on Sept. 16,  surveyed national networks of physicians in 2018, and found that only 65% of pediatricians and 42% of family practitioner used the strongest and most persuasive method of introducing the HPV vaccine: a presumptive style of initiating, meaning that they say, “we have three vaccines for today.” Almost a quarter (24%) of family practitioners and about 16% of pediatricians used a less effective method, which is a more conversational style. Doctors surveyed said that some of the barriers to the HPV vaccination were misinformation parents receive from the Internet or social media, parental concerns about safety of the HPV vaccine, parents not thinking the HPV vaccine was necessary for their daughters or sons, and opposition to vaccination for moral or religious reasons. One positive finding: doctors surveyed reported that the new two-dose HPV vaccines for kids over age 15 (instead of three-doses) is increasing acceptance and successful completion of the HPV vaccination in older teens. Researchers concluded improvements are needed in how the HPV vaccine is being recommended and that communication training materials and apps as well as further development of evidence-based messages for parents may be helpful in improving the way HPV vaccination is introduced to families of teens. 


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds