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Millions of Parents Won't Get Teens Vaccinated for HPV to Prevent Cancer Because of Sex Worries

The Gardasil vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) was introduced in the U.S. in 2006 by Merck & Co.

The HPV vaccine is given to teen girls (and boys) before they become sexually active in order to prevent them from getting cervical cancer as an adult.

Teens need to receive all three vaccine doses and develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person.

However, millions of American parents are actually discouraging their teen girls from getting vaccinated because they fear their teenagers might then engage in sexual activity.

A recent study on this nationwide bizarre trend was recently published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“[Parents should] think of this as another vaccine we are providing for their child so they have a safe and happy adolescence and adulthood,” Dawn Holman, the lead study author, told Bloomberg News.

According to Holman, only 54 percent of girls received one or more vaccinations of the HPV vaccine in in 2012, and only 33 percent received all three shots.

In comparison, 85 percent teen girls received vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

"'Offering’ the HPV vaccine is not the same as ‘recommending’ the HPV vaccine in the same manner as the other important adolescent vaccines,” said Pam Eisele of Merck. “A true vaccine recommendation is more accepted by parents than a vaccine offering.”

The Centers for Disease Control and prevention website says, "Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year." 

HPV can also cause cancers in men, which is why boys are encouraged to be vaccinated, but according to the study, only 21 percent of young males got one or more shots, while 6.8 percent got all three.

Some parents were worried about their kids having sex, while others are concerned about the price (HPV is usually included in health insurance plans) and side effects.

"It's particularly concerning that parental worries about safety have increased, given that evidence for the safety of HPV vaccination has increased over the same time period," Gregory Zimet, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, told USA Today back in March. "In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly persuasive that HPV vaccines are quite safe."

Sources:, Bloomberg News, USA Today


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