Concerns about vaccinations are not limited to parents of young children. In fact, while the majority of parents see the importance of making sure their children ages 13 to 17 are current on national recommendations for vaccinations, there is a significant difference between the perceived importance and whether their children were fully vaccinated, according to a recent online survey by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
The biggest difference was for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Approximately 65% of parents note it is important for their children to be fully vaccinated for HPV but only about 34% said their children are.
This discrepancy can be found with the other vaccinations addressed in the survey:
Being concerned about health risks or allergies associated with vaccines is the top reason parents gave as to why they feel it is unimportant for their teens to be current on vaccinations. Another common reason for not vaccinating is that the condition is not considered a serious health threat.
But Stanley E. Grogg, DO, an AOA board-certified pediatrician and an associate dean of clinical research and a professor of pediatrics at Oklahoma State University Center for Health
Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa, emphasizes the importance of vaccinations in helping to prevent diseases.
"It's understandable that parents might be concerned about potential allergies from vaccines," says Dr. Grogg, a liaison for the AOA to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, which provides guidance with immunization programs. "But in most cases the benefit of vaccinations to help prevent your child from getting any of these diseases outweighs the harm."
Misperceptions about HPV
More than a third of parents express that concerns about health risks and allergies associated with vaccines is the top reason why their children are not vaccinated for HPV. Other reasons parents gave for not having their children vaccinated for HPV included not viewing HPV as a serious health threat and their children are not sexually active and therefore not needing the vaccine.
When asked if HPV is associated with certain forms of cancer, more than 30% of respondents said "No" or "I don't know." Some types of HPV can cause warts and are treatable, according to Dr. Grogg, but others may lead to more serious conditions like cervical cancer.
"Clearly there is a need for more education about how the HPV vaccine can help to prevent the spread of disease, including protecting women from cervical cancer," Dr. Grogg says.
And girls are not the only ones who can benefit from the HPV vaccine. "Recently the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the HPV vaccine for males ages 11 to 12. However, the vaccine is available for both genders ages 9 to 26 to help protect them from genital warts," Dr. Grogg adds.
Why focus on these vaccinations?
The survey focused on vaccinations that have unique considerations for teens: