The HPV vaccine has been on the market since 2006, but as of last year, only 49% of girls have had their shots. Health officials are disappointed by the response, but they say there are several reasons the cervical cancer vaccine isn't catching on — including parents' refusal to acknowledge that one day their precious little girl will be having sex.
Yesterday the CDC released new information from a 2010 survey of more than 19,000 parents who have teens. After checking the kids' vaccination records, researchers determined that slightly less than half of the girls had the first of three recommended HPV vaccine shots, and only a third had received all three doses.
More parents are nervous about vaccinating these days, but Gardasil and Cervarix are even less popular than other vaccines recommended for teens. The study found two-thirds of adolescents had gotten the shot for bacterial meningitis, and another for meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.
Some teens may not get the vaccine because they can be expensive, and it's a hassle to come back to the doctor for three separate shots. Plus, the vaccine only came out in 2006, and people are often hesitant about getting newer vaccines. (Horror stories about rare side effects possibly linked to the vaccine didn't help.)
However, it seems sex is still one of the biggest reasons girls aren't vaccinated. Girls need to have the shot before they're exposed to the virus, so it's recommended that girls start them around 11 or 12, when they (hopefully) aren't sexually active. Yet, some parents mistakenly think that their daughters don't need the shot until after they've started having sex (so not until about 35). Other parents think that giving their daughters the shot will require a sex talk. Few people want to have an uncomfortable sex ed chat when they could avoid the topic and assume someone else will talk to their kids about avoiding unplanned pregnancies and a wide variety of STDS.
Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, suggests that the problem can be solved with an awareness campaign from the government. Giving people the facts on the HPV vaccine (including that boys should probably get it too) seems like an excellent idea. Though, considering how ridiculous some anti-drug commercials are, we're a little concerned about how a government PSA would convey the idea that being vaccinated against HPV won't turn your child into a wanton slut.