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HPV Epidemic – Someone You Love Film – Watch It, Share It!

July 16, 2015 1 comment
Every Child By Two is pleased to welcome Linn to our social media team. Linn is a student intern who will be sharing her perspectives on vaccines with us through the eyes of a PhD candidate.  We hope you enjoy her first piece of the summer.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys ages 11-12.

This vaccine has the potential to prevent 70% of all cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Why then is there such a low rate of vaccine uptake?

Only about 1/3 of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated and less than 14% of boys are fully vaccinated.

One study looked to identify the barriers to uptake of HPV vaccine and found that it was not the lack of perceived risk or vaccine safety that kept parents from vaccinating their children, but the perception that it would increase risky sexual behavior in adolescents even though there is no evidence that this will occur.HPV

As a young student, I remember learning about the HPV vaccine in high school. HPV was a sexually transmitted disease that was relatively unknown, but we learned that the vaccine would prevent certain cancers and genital warts. The knowledge that I gained about the ability for this vaccine to prevent these potential diseases prompted me to learn more about the HPV vaccine and increased my desire to receive it.

However, when I discussed it with my mother, an interesting process began to occur. She did not know any information about the HPV vaccine and when I spoke to her about the fact that it prevents a sexually transmitted disease, I could see a shift in her gaze as she narrowed her eyes. I sensed that she was hesitant because of the social stigma that surrounded a female who would get a vaccine that was related to sexual contact.

All of these opinions are related to a negative stigma around sexual behaviors that are not true.  And yet these are the thoughts I sensed were running through my mother’s head as she also considered what her own peers would think, as I am sure many others do.

Back then I perceived that the assumptions that are made about females that get an STD vaccine were:

a) She is promiscuous.

b) She is about to become promiscuous.

c) She wants to be promiscuous.

At the time, I even remember having a discussion with a teacher about the HPV vaccine and her speaking about how she refused to give her child the HPV vaccine because “they should not be giving 11-12 girls a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease”.   Now I understand that the 11-12 year old visit is the optimal visit, as it eliminates the connection of the vaccine with future sexual contact by integrating it within the routine vaccine schedule, which includes meningitis vaccines and a Tdap booster. In addition, I’ve learned that by waiting to provide the vaccine at a later date, many children fall through the cracks because they do not receive routine health care in their teen years. Read more…