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HPV Vaccine Slow to Gain Traction: August 26, 2013

Mom Erin Van Grinsven is first to admit she takes her time with her children’s vaccinations.

“I’m definitely a vaccine delayer. I don’t believe they should be given super early. By the time they go to kindergarten I make sure they’re all caught up,” says Erin Van Grinsven, mother.

None her five boys, ages 1 to eleven, have been immunized against HPV. Despite better-than-expected success with the shot itself, and early progress among adolescent girls, the vaccine isn’t catching on.

“It has gone through a couple a waves. In the beginning there was a lot of hesitation about getting the vaccine and then there was a lot of interest once the data came out that it was safe. Then it kind of backed off once the first wave got finished,” says Dr. Eric Jones, pediatrician with Lee Memorial Health System.

The HPV virus is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers and is now a top cause of many oral cancers. Generally given in three doses, this shot is uncomfortable for many parents.

“Because it is tied to a sexual transmitted infection it has some stigmas associated with it,” says Dr. Jones.

The multi- dose vaccine is handled mostly by pediatricians. It is recommended before someone is sexually active. Doctors may have a better shot at getting parents consent if they take a different approach.

“Part of the thing we can do to de-stigmatize it, is scheduling that vaccine as part of the regular vaccine series so it becomes less of an outsider. So at eleven folks usually will get their booster for the 7th grade. Offering the HPV vaccine then is a good way to kind of bring it back,” says Dr. Jones.

Bringing new direction may encourage discriminating parents to take a second look.