Challenges parents, physicians face in addressing HPV vaccine

The AP/Washington Post on Sunday examined the challenges parents and physicians face in addressing the issues associated with Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil (Irvine, AP/Washington Post, 8/27).

FDA last month approved Gardasil for sale and marketing to girls and women ages nine to 26, and CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices later that month voted unanimously to recommend that all girls ages 11 and 12 receive the vaccine.

ACIP also recommended that Gardasil be covered by the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides no-cost immunizations to children covered by Medicaid, Alaska-native and American Indian children, and some uninsured and underinsured children (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21).

According to the AP/Post, HPV is a "weighty topic" that has some parents, particularly those with adolescent girls, deciding whether they should tell their daughters that Gardasil is a vaccine against cancer or if they should explain that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

According to a CDC survey, about 7% of children under age 13 have had sex and about 25% have done so by age 15.

The agency also estimates that more than six million U.S. residents -- the majority of them youth -- acquire HPV annually.

Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, an adolescent and internal medicine specialist at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said parents should recognize the seriousness of such statistics when discussing the HPV vaccine with their daughters.

Susan Rosenthal, a pediatric psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said several surveys have found that parents' most frequent concerns are with the seriousness of the illness and whether the vaccine will be an effective prevention method, "They're much less concerned how the infection is transmitted" (AP/Washington Post, 8/27).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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