Why are parents so leery of the HPV vaccine?

The first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was licensed in 2006 and despite tens of millions of doses being safely administered according to experts, parents don’t seem to be any more comfortable with the vaccine today.

From USA Today:

“Concerns about safety and side effects for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine — one of the newest shots recommended for adolescents — has increased among parents: 16% cited these fears as the main reason they did not have their daughters vaccinated in 2010, up from 5% in 2008, a new study finds.

“And the percentage of parents who said they did not intend to vaccinate their daughters against HPV in the next 12 months also grew, from 40% in 2008 to 41% in 2009 to 44% in 2010, even as parents reported increasing physician recommendations to get the shot, says the study in April’s Pediatrics, released online Monday.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV vaccines offer the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three vaccine doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person.

“Parental anxiety over the safety of other new adolescent vaccines — the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster Tdap, (and a version called Td without the pertussis portion) and the meningococcal disease shot MCV4 — did not show a similar increase.”

HPV is a group of sexually transmitted viruses passed through genital contact – most often during vaginal or anal sex but can also be spread through oral sex. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls 11 to 12 years old.

We discussed this when the vaccine first came out. I can’t find the story because my archive doesn’t go back that far in this system, but I remember many moms saying that wanted to wait a while to see what shook out.  At the time my oldest was too young for it, and I was glad I didn’t have to make that decision then, but guess what? Now she is exactly the age they are targeting with the vaccine. So in the next year or so, we will have to make a decision about it.

So have you done it? Did you hold out? Did you give it to your son as well? Where do you stand on it now?

83 comments Add your comment

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MamaS

March 19th, 2013
5:59 am

My son will be the right age to have it in two years. Based on what I know now, I will allow his doctor to administer the series. I want to raise a responsible young man, and sexually active boys have a responsibility to do all in their power to protect their female partners from STDs, pregnancies, and HP viruses.

Jeff

March 19th, 2013
6:13 am

Why am I apparently the only one who raises an eyebrow that we are asking adults to inject BOYS with something so that will primarily benefit girls?

Would we be willing to put a chemical into the bodies of girls when the health of boys is the stated primary goal? Do we know the long term side effects? Has anyone asked? Or are we just so much on the bandwagon of doing anything under the pretext of women’s health that we don’t even think to ask what it’s doing to the future health of the men of this country?

If you want to give girls the vaccine, by all means go ahead. It’s a shame that some of you mothers care more about girls that aren’t yours than you do about boys that are.

gtmom

March 19th, 2013
6:41 am

Jeff, this vaccine is not just for boys. First off, almost every man and woman have come in contact with HPV at sometime in their life. 19,000 women will develop cancer from it (in US). 8000 men will develop cancer from it. It also causes genital warts in both men and women. There are also lots of girls who not get this vaccine for their daughters. It would be horrible for me to watch my son lose a loved one and he be the guilty party who gave this infection to that person. I have seen it happen.
My college roommate who was a virgin until she married. She developed cevical cancer in her early 30s. Her husband and her both had HPV. She had never been with another person including oral sex. She lived but had a hard fight being it was stage 3. His guilt was horrible to watch.
I will vaccinate my sons. I have no daughters. I will vaccinate them because I love them.

WTFrank

March 19th, 2013
6:56 am

“sexually active boys have a responsibility to do all in their power to protect their female partners from STDs, pregnancies, and HP viruses.” Good grief, you do know that there are plenty of women of questionable character giving STD’s to men right? Basically the modern woman bears no responsibilty if I am reading your statement correctly….

Georgia

March 19th, 2013
7:02 am

Tough issue, because it challenges our inner prunes. Immunize early and often. We are sexual beings first. Look what happened to Al Capone.

A Realist

March 19th, 2013
7:03 am

I think Jeff said it best….this is clearly another example of men’s health being largely overlooked in favor of medical issues that impact females.

Mayhem

March 19th, 2013
7:07 am

Both my daughters got the shot before they went to college. No problems at all.

Dietcokegirl

March 19th, 2013
7:12 am

HPV doesn’t only afftect women. It can affect men too… Cancer of the throat and mouth, women can get all of those plus cervical cancer, which by the way, is no walk in the park. If I had BOYS or GIRLS, I would vaccinate them in a heartbeat. I had/have HPV, the high risk kind, only because the vax wasn’t around when I was growing up, but you can be damn sure that I would have had it.

Stop making this issue into a you vs. me, its a general health issue. If you could get a vaccine for colon cancer, would you?

ATL Born and Raised

March 19th, 2013
7:18 am

As far as I know there have been no reported negative side effects from this vaccine. What’s all the fuss about? I had it myself a few years ago. It’s a painful injection, but other than that I haven’t experienced any side effects.

motherjanegoose

March 19th, 2013
7:32 am

My daughter did not get it. She has a good friend who got VERY sick from it and still has issues to this day.
Since she is 20, it is her call. She had all her other immunizations, with the exception of a flu shot this year.

Cramer

March 19th, 2013
7:32 am

This blog doesn’t address the epidemic of head & neck squamous cell carcinoma in middle aged, primarily white men caused by HPV 16 exposure. This isn’t political correctness run amok, this is a smart, very low risk way to prevent cancer in both men and women.

^ D’Souza G, Dempsey A (October 2011). “The role of HPV in head and neck cancer and review of the HPV vaccine”. Prev Med 53 Suppl 1: S5–S11. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.08.001. PMC 3287051. PMID 21962471.

Common Sense

March 19th, 2013
7:39 am

Go to the FDA’s website and read the complaints yourself. There are teenage girls all over this country and others with severe neurological disorders and other serious complications (including deaths) as a direct result of being injected with this horrible vaccine. If you care that little about your child that you are willing to risk your child’s life simply because the government, the media, and the pharmaceutical industry are scaring you into believing their lies, then you are a horrible parent. The internet is loaded with great documentation of everything that is wrong with this vaccine. Do your homework and don’t just buy into the lies. You are supposed to be looking out for your children, not willingly putting them in danger.

Brian

March 19th, 2013
7:42 am

I think the reason that there has not been widespread adoption is due to the vaccination-autism debacle from years back. While this “study” was proven to be false, people get things stuck in their head and believe what they want to believe. This has spilled over into this vaccine.

A reader

March 19th, 2013
7:47 am

“The internet is loaded with great documentation of everything that is wrong with this vaccine.”

Because if it is on the internet then it must be true **eye roll**

Ask your DOCTOR about the risks and discuss it with him/her. Yes, there are risks but they only occur in a small percentage of people. My daughter has never had an adverse reaction to any vaccine so I felt that the benefits definitely out way the risks for her. But this is an individual decision that you need to make for yourself and your child.

Mother of 2

March 19th, 2013
8:01 am

Both of my sons had the vaccine. I don’t have daughters. But I waited until my insurance covered it before giving them the series of shots because it was so expensive. My pediatrician was very helpful and didn’t push the vaccine. He simply explained the pros and cons and my boys and I made the decision to go ahead and vaccinate.

Polio, TB, pertussis, and measles are public health vaccinations – we vaccinate our children for their own good as well as the good of the community. HPV is a more personal decision. My boys didn’t get vaccinated until they were older (16 and 20), and I wanted them to be a part of the decision. Not all children are sexually active in their teens and early 20’s, and I was lucky to have the luxury of having time to discuss the vaccine with my boys. Parents need to know their own children and decide what’s best. It’s also important to know the real risks and benefits before deciding.

Decatur Guy

March 19th, 2013
8:27 am

“Why are parents so leery of the HPV vaccine?’

The fact that you asked that questions proves what a moron you are.

southpaw

March 19th, 2013
8:30 am

My son figures his pants are better protection from HPV than the vaccine would be. Since he’s good at using the pants correctly, I agree with him. Since he doesn’t like shots, and I don’t like spending money unnecessarily, he’ll forgo the shot, at least for now.

ATL Born and Raised

March 19th, 2013
8:33 am

@Common Sense

Direct from the CDC itself, only 6% of adverse-event reports have been documented as “serious”. Keep your fear-mongering to yourself. All vaccines, prescriptions, medical procedures, etc have risks. Generally, however, the benefits to individuals and society more than outweigh these risks.

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccines/HPV/HPVArchived.html

FCM

March 19th, 2013
9:07 am

My older one has had it. My younger one will get it next year.

Whatever I can do to lower their chance of cancer I am going to do. Their father agreed.

She got the Hep A one at the same time. Would you have second thoughts about getting that?

Jeff, I would think the boys would want to protect themselves from being carriers. They would want to protect their future wives. Plus this like many other things is probably causing problems in boys too we just don’t hear about it.

A woman is more likely to survive a breast cancer diagnosis than a man. It is a still a death sentence for men, mostly because they do not get routine chest exams like women do. Thus it is not caught in time. (I am aware this vaccine does nothing for this but it is an example of more awareness among men is needed).

My mother says when my brother was a young man (11 – 14) the doctor wanted to the birds & bees check with him….My brother said doc I got it! “You keep your d*&$ to yourself”

Techmom

March 19th, 2013
9:20 am

Jeff, I was actually one of the parents who asked my son’s doctor why the vaccine WASN’T available to boys when it first came out. Girls may suffer more consequences from HPV but boys are the ones passing it along. Wouldn’t it suck for your son to get married later in life and find out that HE passed the virus on to his wife? We’ve talked plenty of times about male birth control so I’m kind of surprised you’re taking this side.

Our insurance did not cover the vaccine for my son a couple of years ago and then when I took him for his physical last year, the doctors office didn’t have the vaccine in stock so we put it off. I would like for him to get it though.

I’ve seen the “scary” reports of side effects but so far I don’t think any have been substantiated.

Old School

March 19th, 2013
10:09 am

A couple of relevant points: If you have sons or daughters who you are pretty certain will become sexually active by middle school because ‘all kids do’, by all means get them the vaccine. On the other hand, if your believe your son or daughter is or will be armed with the maturity and judgment to avoid sexual activity until they can make their own decision about whether this vaccine is right for them, then why force it on them so early in life? We all know what causes HPV, right? Note to parents who are certain their child will be sexually active so early in life: I’m sorry for your circumstance and I feel your pain. Sounds terrifying to have worry about that in middle school.

Rawmilkdrinker

March 19th, 2013
10:24 am

I had a friend who died from cervical cancer. It’s not a good way to die! I’ve heard plenty of descriptions of whooping cough from ancestors who witnessed cases of in the early half of the 1900s. Yes, I know that is ancient times to most of Atlanta’s current residents. Whooping cough may not always kill you but it’s not pretty either. I’ve seen livestock and dogs with tetanus infections. Tetanus infections aren’t a pretty way to die either.

Virginia

March 19th, 2013
11:05 am

I am 49 y.o., and I was recently diagnosed with HPV. I have been sexually active with two men and married them both (consecutively, not concurrently). Since I was found to have several pre-cancerous cells, I will have Pap smears every 6 months for the foreseeable future. If that’s the worst of it, praise God! I wasn’t aware that my sons could be immunized. Thank you for that info.

Me

March 19th, 2013
11:20 am

I think what happened was that when it originally came out, it was stated that it only prevents a certain type of virus that causes uterine and or cervical cancer, not all. That being said, parents felt that it wasn’t worth it to get it because you could get the vaccine and STILL end up with a cancer that wasn’t covered. It’s kinda a little like the flu shot. It’s great if you get the one for that years strain. If you get the wrong one, you go down just like everyone else. I have a few years to make this decision for my daughter and I still don’t know what I’m gonna do. So many medical interventions have gone horribly wrong. Just look at the lawsuits for companies knowingly distributing medicines that were later found to harm or even kill people. For all we know it could make them sterile, have reproductive problems or cause problem in their future children. 2006 is not a long time to see results. Just like the H1N1 vaccine that they pushed out so fast a few years ago. How long before they are saying that cause some time of condition in the children that received it? I hope never, but with big companies only looking at dollar signs…..you just don’t know.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:00 pm

“Why are parents so leery of the HPV vaccine?”

Because it forces them to confront the idea that their children might have sex.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:04 pm

“The internet is loaded with great documentation of everything that is wrong with this vaccine.”

Like the commercial says: “They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true” . Have fun with your French model date.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:09 pm

“On the other hand, if your believe your son or daughter is or will be armed with the maturity and judgment to avoid sexual activity until they can make their own decision about whether this vaccine is right for them, then why force it on them so early in life?”

What if you believe they are staying sexually “pure” and they prove you wrong by getting cancer from HPV?

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:10 pm

“On the other hand, if your believe your son or daughter is or will be armed with the maturity and judgment to avoid sexual activity until they can make their own decision about whether this vaccine is right for them, then why force it on them so early in life?”

Or are you trying to say that if they get cancer from sex, it serves them right.

Tiffany

March 19th, 2013
12:36 pm

Intelligent and caring parents will get their children immunized against HPV. Why on earth would you NOT?

Political Mongrel

March 19th, 2013
12:37 pm

How many people will become sick and/or die because of Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine hysteria? The contagion of her ideas is deadly.

Ann

March 19th, 2013
12:40 pm

@ ATL Born and Raised – You state that only 6% of adverse reports have been documented as “serious”. Wow, 6% is huge. Six out of every 100 girls or boys have serious reactions. That is a lot of kids.

Dr. Diane Harper, one of the lead developers of Gardasil and the lead researcher in Phase II and Phase III trials of the vaccine is strongly advising parents to know more about the risks. Comments that she has made in interviews the past couple of years raise serious questions. She actually states that the risk of death with cervical cancer is the “same” as the risk of serious adverse affects with Gardasil. And, she states that the risk of serious adverse effects may be greater than the risk of cervical cancer the vaccine is intended to prevent. Some of these adverse effects are very serious debilitating illnesses, such as strokes, and also deaths.

Anyone who thinks that parents are skipping the vaccine simply because of some irrational fear related to the Autism/vaccine issue is insulting parents who are doing their due diligence to evaluate these risks and benefits. Cervical cancer is very preventable with routine pap smears. Skipping the vaccine does not necessarily increase your risk of cervical cancer if you are getting regular pap smears through your teenage and adult life. There is “no data” yet that measures whether cervical cancer will be reduced or not with this vaccine.

Okay, so given that 6% have serious reactions, let’s look at the risk of cervical cancer over the lifetime for U.S. women (1 out of 117). So, there’s less than 1% chance of cervical cancer, but 6% have serious vaccine reactions. This is what makes it very difficult for parents and teens to weigh the benefits with the risks.

Dr. Harper’s statements are quite enlightening, including how little research has been done with boys. And, she also states that the vaccine does not prevent cervical cancer, that it only helps prevent abnormal pap smears. She says that, in order to prevent cervical cancer, as a matter of public policy, the vaccine needs to “last” 15 years and it only lasts 5. She complains that Merck was given too much leeway in how they are marketing the vaccine. She states that the best way to prevent cervical cancer is through pap smears, which do not have negative risks. She also discusses the link between Guillian-Barre syndrome and the vaccine. You can read some of her comments here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500690_162-5253431.html

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:44 pm

“How many people will become sick and/or die because of Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine hysteria? The contagion of her ideas is deadly”

A lot of children will die. If they are the result of their parents’ listening to Jenny McCarthy, I guess we should just say they deserve to die. Darwin Awards to them.

HB

March 19th, 2013
12:53 pm

Ann, she wrote 6% of adverse reports, meaning 6 out of every 100 who have reactions, not 6% of those who get the vaccine. The other 94% of reactions were not serious.

ATL Born and Raised

March 19th, 2013
12:55 pm

@Ann I suggest you actually read the link I posted. Many of those “reactions” were only tangentially related to receiving the vaccine; many of the recipients were already at high-risk for developing blood clots, etc.

HPV doesn’t just cause cancer. It also causes genital warts. And considering over 80% of the sexually active population has some form of HPV, I think this vaccine is a risk worth taking. Remember HPV is largely asymptomatic and people pass it back and forth unknowingly.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
12:56 pm

Whoa, Ann, I think you need to improve your reading skills. “@ ATL Born and Raised – You state that only 6% of adverse reports have been documented as “serious”. ”

She didn’t say what percentage have ANY adverse reports. The CDC states that ANY adverse reactions were reported in only 1 out of 1800 vacinations. And out of THOSE only 6% were “serious”. The chance of having a “serious” adverse reaction was 1 in 30,000.

according to the CDC:
•The most common events reported were:
◦Syncope (or fainting)–common after need injections, especially in pre-teens and teens
◦Local reactions at the site of immunization (pain and redness)
◦Dizziness
◦Nausea
◦Headache

ATL Born and Raised

March 19th, 2013
12:58 pm

Also, pap smears don’t prevent cervical cancer. They can only detect abnormal cell growth in an early enough time frame to intervene before it becomes deadly.

Ann

March 19th, 2013
1:15 pm

Pap smears do prevent cervical cancer. They detect pre-cancerous cells “before” they become cancer. Once detected, they can be removed and the person never gets “cancer”. In that regard, they do prevent it.

@ Parent – the CDC does list the most common symptoms. Parents, however, should not just “ignore” the more serious effects that have occurred in thousands of cases. If one of the creators of the vaccine acknowledges these serious effects, why shouldn’t parents know about them in order to make their decision? Dr. Diane Harper is not a “Jenny McCarthy”.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
1:34 pm

“Parents, however, should not just “ignore” the more serious effects that have occurred in thousands of cases.”

Ann, in 20 million vaccines, there were 734 “serious” effects reported (not thousands) including 32 deaths. They are still studying those 32 deaths (and other seriou effects) to see if they had ANYTHING to do with the vaccine. I am not asking parents to ignore the risks, but to discuss it with their doctors. The risks of contracting cervical cancer should be weighed against the risks of the vaccines (and the risks of genital warts, and transmitting the disease to others, etc.).

And, by the way, pap smears do not PREVENT cancer, they only give early warning of it. Repeating a lie does not make it true. People on this blog are intelligent enough to realize that.

Jenny but not McCarthy

March 19th, 2013
1:40 pm

Ann, you are absolutely wrong about pap smears “preventing” cancer. You are also wrong that once cancer cells are detected through a pap smear, “the person never gets cancer”. It is just not that simple, although I wish it were. My aunt had abnormal cells removed several times, yet she developed cancer. She ultimately had to have a total hysterectomy, but fortunately she survived cancer. And for those who think cervical cancer is some kind of just punishment for immoral behavior by women – my aunt contracted HPV from her husband. My children will be vaccinated.

cobbmom

March 19th, 2013
1:46 pm

Am I the only one that remembers Michelle Bachmann loudly proclaiming during her presidential bid that a woman at a meet and greet told her that her daughter became mentally retarded (her word, not mine) after having the vaccine? Between her and Jenny McCarthy we have a generation of under vaccinated children who pose a threat to all of us. My child’s school has already had a whooping cough outbreak because of stupidity. I told my husband, who is an attorney, that if any member of our family gets sick because of these unvaccinated children we will sue the pants off the stupid parents. He said he didn’t think there was legal presidence, I told him I didn’t care, at least they would have to pay legal fees and face the embarrassment of having everyone know that they are stupid.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
1:51 pm

” He said he didn’t think there was legal presidence,”

You need to ask him how he spells precedence.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
1:54 pm

You have a lot of parents who say ” my kids don’t need no vaccine against HPV because the only way you can get it is through sex, AND THEY BETTER NOT BE HAVIONG SEX, OR I WILL KILL ‘EM!”

Parent

March 19th, 2013
1:55 pm

Ann

March 19th, 2013
2:01 pm

@ Jenny but not McCarthy – You misinterpreted my statement. To rephrase it better, I was explaining how the pap smear “prevents” cancer in the cases where abnormal cells are removed, resulting in no future cancer. In those instances of prevention, the person does not get cancer. And “prevention” is an appropriate word to describe it. I did not intend to imply that “screening” tests are always 100% accurate and that there are never cases of cancer. No screening test of any type is 100% accurate at all times.

Just Me Thinking...

March 19th, 2013
2:02 pm

Once again, it is not a vaccine against all the different types of viruses that cause cervical cancer..just some. It will not prevent all types of cervical cancer and should not be viewed as a cure all. Please make informed decisions. Do the research for yourself and then make the decision you feel is right for your child. That’s what I plan to do. It’s not about whether a child will or won’t have sex. It’s about injectng them with something that will effect them whether for good or bad for the rest of his or her life. I mean for it to be preventative long term doesn’t it have to change their immune system in some way. In the act of possibly saving them from one thing we could be causing the body to potentally create something worse. I don’t know, and that is why I will be researching it until time to make my decision. Blogs are good sounding boards but not always great for factual information.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
2:32 pm

Sort of reminds me of a cat I used to have. I had put off getting the cat spayed but was not worried about it, because she was a totally indoor cat (takes two to tango, no male cat= no pregnancy). One day she goes THROUGH the window screen. Shows up again three days later looking all satisfied. Next thing you know I have a cat and five kittens.

a reader

March 19th, 2013
2:34 pm

Interesting in that we didn’t vaccinate daughter #1 right away because at that point the vaccine was new. It’s not new any longer, and the data has it as pretty safe. Both Ds have now gotten it, and if I had a son, he’d have it too. Men *transmit* HPV. That’s why they need to be vaccinated.

Jeff

March 19th, 2013
2:50 pm

Cobb, with all due respect, we do not have a genreation of UNDER vaccinated kids. More children take more vaccinations now than at any time in our history.

Parent

March 19th, 2013
3:02 pm

” I was explaining how the pap smear “prevents” cancer in the cases where abnormal cells are removed, resulting in no future cancer. In those instances of prevention, the person does not get cancer.”

So I guess you would say that mammograms “prevent” breast cancer. Tell that to my wife who died of breast cancer. Too bad there wasn’t a vaccine against breast cancer.