A new study has found that many parents don't intend to have their children vaccinated against human papillomavirus, even though it's recommended by most medical professionals.
The survey of 100,000 American parents revealed that more than two in five parents believe the HPV vaccine is unnecessary. Additionally, a growing number worry about potential side effects.
The research team included doctors from the Mayo Clinic, University of Oklahoma and Medical University of South Carolina, and the findings are published in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers looked at vaccination rates of three vaccines routinely recommended for U.S. teens - HPV, Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis, and the meningitis vaccine, MCV4. While the up-to-date immunization rates have risen over the past five years for all three, the proportion of girls fully immunized against HPV is substantially lower than the proportion for the other two vaccines.
In fact, the study revealed that the number of parents who don't intend on having their children receive the HPV vaccine is increasing. In 2008, 40 percent of parents surveyed said they wouldn't vaccinate their girls against HPV, which is considered a sexually transmitted disease. In 2010, that number increased to 44 percent.
Scientists state that the findings are hard to understand, because studies have proven that the HPV vaccine is not only effective, but safe. Still, parents cite various reasons for not having their children vaccinated, including it not being recommended, a lack of knowledge and concerns about side effects.
The HPV vaccine is given as a series of three shots over a six-month period. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that preteen boys and girls receive it before becoming sexually active to maximize its efficacy.
HPV can cause genital warts, as well as various cancers, including cervical cancer.
"HPV causes essentially 100 percent of cervical cancer [cases] and 50 percent of all Americans get infected at least once with HPV," said Mayo Clinic researcher Robert Jacobson, M.D. "It's a silent infection. You cannot tell when you've been exposed or when you have it."