It is the only vaccine created specifically to prevent cancer, and it is nearly 100 percent effective, yet parent continue to resist adding the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to the requirements for school. Only one in five parents supports mandatory HPV vaccines even though the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing cervical cancer, 95 percent effective against anal cancer and 70 percent effective against throat and neck cancer.
Interestingly enough, a recent study of parents’ attitudes toward the HPV vaccine found that support tripled if parents are given the opportunity to opt out for their child. Postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and study lead author William Calo says that, even though support for the HPV vaccine increases with opt-out provisions, previous research has found that those provisions make the law less effective.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that about one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected with cancers caused by HPV infections, and approximately 14 million more, including teens, become infected every year. The infections cause vaginal, cervical and vulvar cancers in women, penile cancers in men, and throat cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts in both men and women.
According to Calo, the vaccine can save an estimated 30,000 lives every year, yet parents continue to resist, even though half believed it was at least as important as meningococcal and Tdap vaccines, which are the other two recommended for adolescents. Only 40 percent of parents believed the vaccine could prevent cervical cancer and almost one-fourth believed (inaccurately) that the vaccine might cause long-term health issues. Only 21 percent of parents thought that requiring the vaccine was a good idea. However, that figure jumped to 57 percent if the parents were allowed to opt out.
The CDC recommends that preteen girls and boys aged 11 or 12 receive the vaccine, which is given in three shots over a 6-month period. Teenagers can be vaccinated if they did not receive the shot at a younger age, men can be vaccinated up to age 21 and women up to age 26.