Fewer physicians offer HPV vaccine to 11 and 12 year olds

Until recently, there was not a lot of data regarding vaccine administration and perceptions of HPV vaccination among physicians.  The HPV vaccine–also known as Gardasil has been on the market since 2006, and before it came to the market, it was met with mostly positive remarks. However after its release little else was done to investigate its use until now.  The University of Colorado School of Medicine in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente began a look into how physicians were viewing the drug–and who they were recommending it for.  Current guidelines on Gardasil approve the vaccine for use in girls as young as 9 through age 26. There is even talk of perhaps increasing that age to as high as 45.

Based on study results, this survey found that an overwhelming number of physicians–both pediatricians and family practice are not offering the vaccine to younger patients–those in the 11 and 12 year old age range.  But instead are waiting until they are 13 to 15 to begin discussing the three shot series.  Several reasons were cited for the delay–or reluctance.  One primary barrier to the vaccine for younger girls was related directly to a reluctance to discuss sexuality and sexual practices so early.  If 11 and 12 is too young, what about the 9 year old?  Physicians also cited insurance and cost as a barrier to the vaccine–as many health insurance carriers do not cover vaccinations and Gardasil can cost $360 or more to complete the  series of injections.

Parental concerns were also a barrier.  The study reports that 39% of pediatricians and 43% of family physicians met opposition from parents who feared early vaccination might encourage risky sexual behaviors earlier.  Nearly one quarter of those surveyed stated that parents were upset that the vaccine was even offered to the 11 and 12 year old age group at all.  18% of pediatricians and 29% of family practice doctors also stated that about one fourth of parents refused the vaccine for their younger daughters.

According to the study, physicians were much more likely to offer the vaccine to girls if they were older.  Personal vaccine views by individual physicians was also considered to be a variable in the study as physicians responded to questionnaires and the author cited that while some physicians may be adamant to support vaccination, others could take a more laid-back approach that could have effected the data.

Gardasil, the only cervical cancer vaccine approved for use the in the U.S. has seen struggling sales and a declining number of young women who are completing the three shot series.  The vaccine, which has been linked to a variety of serious medical conditions and even death is under continual scrutiny and continues to bear watching.

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