Many physicians feel uncomfortable talking about the HPV vaccine and believe that parents will be strongly resistant.

But that must change if we want to save lives. 

A 2014 survey asked nearly 2,400 pediatricians and family physicians to report on their own performance related to the vaccine. The questions focused on four areas:

  • Endorsement – how strongly they recommend the vaccine.
  • Timeliness – do they recommend it at 11-12 years of age.
  • Consistency – do they recommended routinely or do they use a risk-based approach.
  • Urgency – do they recommend the patient receive the vaccination that day.

The results were disheartening.

More than a 25% of physicians stated they did not strongly endorse the HPV vaccine, and a similar number reported that they did not recommend it be given at 11-12 years of age.

Nearly 60% said they used a risk-based approach versus a routine approach to recommending the HPV vaccine, and only half of the respondents recommended giving the vaccine then and there. These results also represent a best-case scenario because respondents would be unlikely to paint an unflattering picture of their own performance. Physicians who can’t clearly communicate the importance of this cancer-preventing vaccine fail to recommend it.  

We are at risk of being the generation of pediatricians and family physicians who collectively failed to protect our patients from a preventable cause of cancer. This outcome can only be reversed by learning how to talk to patient families about the positives HPV vaccine offers.  

How to talk to your patients about the HPV vaccine

Recommend HPV vaccination in the same way and on the same day as all adolescent vaccines
For example: “Now that your son is 11, he is due for vaccinations today to help protect him from meningitis, HPV cancers and pertussis. Do you have any questions?”

Why does my child need the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is crucial because it prevents infections that can lead to certain cancers.

Is my child really at risk for HPV?
HPV is a common infection that most men and women develop at some point in their lives. This infection can cause cancer and starting the vaccine series today will help protect your child from the cancers and diseases caused by HPV.

Why do they need the vaccine at such a young age?
We want to give the HPV vaccine earlier rather than later because a younger patient’s immune system processes the vaccination much better. If you wait, your child may need a series of three shots, rather than two.

Would you get the HPV vaccine for your kids?
For example: “Yes, I gave the HPV vaccine to my child (or grandchild, or niece, etc.) when he was 11, because it is important for preventing cancer.”

Why do boys need HPV vaccine?
HPV vaccine can help prevent future infection that can lead to cancers of the penis, anus, and back of throat in men, as well as protect our future generations.

What diseases are caused by HPV?
Some HPV infections can become long-term infections and cause cancers, such as cervical or in the back of the throat. But, we can protect your child from these cancers in the future by getting their first HPV shot today.

Does the vaccine work?
Studies have been done and the HPV vaccine is continuously monitored to ensure the safety, as well as effectiveness of the vaccine. Since being introduced, it has already reduced the number of HPV cases seen in the United States.

I’m worried that my child will think that getting this vaccine makes it OK to have sex.
Studies tell us that getting the HPV vaccine does not make kids more likely to start having sex. If you are worried about this, tell your child your own values and make sure they know you are open to their questions.

Can HPV vaccine cause infertility in my child?
There is no known link between the HPV vaccine and inability to have children in the future. However, HPV-related cancers and precancers could require treatment that would limit a woman’s ability to have children.

What vaccines are actually required?
For example: “I strongly recommend all of these vaccines and so do the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and other major medical organizations. School entry requirements are developed for public health and safety, but do not always reflect the most current medical recommendations for your child’s personal health.”

Is the HPV vaccine safe?
Yes, the HPV vaccination is very safe. Before being introduced to the public, HPV vaccine underwent years of tests with tens of thousands of participants before being approved by the FDA. The United States currently has the best vaccine system in the world.

Like any other vaccine or medication, HPV vaccination can cause side effects such as pain, swelling or redness, but these are incredibly mild and should go away after a day or two. 

HPV research studies

Sexual activity – related outcomes after human papillomavirus vaccination of 11 to 12-year-olds
Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/10/peds.2012-1516

Health care providers less likely to offer vaccination to teenage boys
Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/healthcare-providers-offer-hpv-vaccination-teenage-boys-study/story?id=54026987

One in nine American men infected with HPV, study says
Source: https://www.ajc.com/news/world/one-nine-american-men-infected-with-oral-hpv-study-says/IbBxFFBYgCdLydtcS9MaeJ/

Prevalence of HPV after introduction of the vaccination program in the United States
Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/02/19/peds.2015-1968?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=TrendMD&utm_campaign=Pediatrics_TrendMD_0

Missed opportunity: HPV in Texas
Source: https://www.utsystem.edu/sites/default/files/news/assets/HPV%20in%20Texas%20Report.pdf

Learn more information about HPV Facts and Myths

HPV Facts and Myths

The HPV vaccination is very safe

Before being introduced to the public, HPV vaccine underwent years of tests with tens of thousands of participants before being approved by the FDA. The United States currently has the best vaccine system in the world.