Cultural differences may explain why some don't get HPV vaccines

October 14, 2013

A new study explores why girls in minority groups and low-income families, who are most at risk for cervical cancer, may not be getting the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine.

Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado interviewed 41 low-income of girls ages 12-15 to determine why they didn't get the vaccine or finish the course, and included both English speakers and Spanish speakers in the study.

English-speaking parents expressed concerns over the need and safety of the vaccine, while Spanish-speaking parents said health care providers failed to explain that they needed three shots to be fully immunized. They also feared the vaccine would encourage .

"The reasons low-income girls did not initiate or complete the HPV vaccination were strikingly different depending on whether their parents spoke English or Spanish," said study author Sean O'Leary, MD, MPH, an investigator at the Children's Outcomes Research Program, affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. "This is a safe and effective vaccine. We are seeing huge declines in HPV infection rates in the US overall and especially among those who have received the vaccine."

O'Leary presented the study, which will be published within the next several months, in San Francisco last week at IDWeek 2013, an annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

He said HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. with 75 percent of Americans infected at some point. It is also a leading cause of in women and throat cancer in men.

Every year, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the vaccination before they become sexually active.

The vaccine is given in three doses over six months. The CDC reports that 33 percent of girls overall have had the three shots while just 28 percent of those below the poverty line received the injections.

"This is a population that is statistically at a higher risk of cervical cancer," O'Leary said. "So we wanted to find out why they weren't getting their shots."

Those who spoke English told investigators that they felt the risk of contracting HPV was questionable and they also worried about the safety of the vaccine.

"They wanted definitive proof that it was necessary," O'Leary said. "The Spanish-speakers had no problems with vaccine safety. But they said their providers didn't recommend it and some feared it would encourage sexual activity."

Others got the first or second dose of the vaccine but stopped there. They said a reminder system using texts or similar methods might prompt them to get the additional vaccines.

The researchers made the following recommendations:

  • That make clear to patients and parents that they strongly recommend the HPV vaccine
  • That they explain the need to receive all three shots in the series.
  • Health care providers could also use the findings from this study to guide how they counsel families about the HPV vaccine. There are now studies showing that who receive the vaccine are no more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who don't.
  • Providers could point to numerous studies showing the safety of this vaccine, or emphasize studies showing its effectiveness. Even with relatively low vaccination rates at present, we are already seeing major declines in HPV infections in the US because of the vaccine.

"The HPV is one of the few tools we have that actually prevents cancer," O'Leary said. "If we can do a better job helping parents understand how important it is to have their adolescents vaccinated, cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers may become things of the past."

Explore further: Cultural differences shed light on non-completion of HPV vaccination in girls in low-income families

Related Stories

Cultural differences shed light on non-completion of HPV vaccination in girls in low-income families

October 4, 2013
Although they are at higher risk for cervical cancer, girls from low-income families are less likely to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that prevents it, and the reasons they are not fully vaccinated differ ...

Report: Teen HPV vaccination rate still lagging

July 25, 2013
(AP)—Disappointed health officials say only about half of teenage girls have gotten a controversial vaccine against cervical cancer—a rate that's changed little in three years.

1 in 5 boys got HPV shot in first year recommended

August 29, 2013
A new report offers a first look at how many boys are getting shots designed to protect girls from cervical cancer. Health officials say the number getting vaccinated so far is a good start.

New study explores providers' perceptions of parental concerns about HPV vaccination

May 14, 2013
A new Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) study has found that low-income and minority parents may be more receptive to vaccinating their daughters against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), while white, middle-class parents ...

Sexually transmitted HPV declines in US teens

June 19, 2013
The number of US girls with the sexually transmitted disease HPV has dropped by about half even though relatively few youths are getting the vaccine, research showed on Wednesday.

No change in HPV vaccine coverage for teen girls in 2012

July 30, 2013
(HealthDay)—In 2012 there was little increase in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination among teenage girls, according to a report published in the July 26 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ...

Recommended for you

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.