Docs Not Hot on HPV Vaccines

HPV vaccines not always favored by physicians

(RxWiki News) Let's call a spade a spade. Since it was first introduced, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been mired in controversy. For a different perspective of the topic, researchers asked doctors what they thought about these shots.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers surveyed just over 1,000 physicians to learn about their beliefs, recommendations and practices around the HPV vaccine.

This vaccine is designed to prevent a number of cancers relating to the sexually transmitted virus.

"Talk to your doctor about vaccines."

The most common sexually traded virus, HPV can cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal and various types of oral cancers. It's an ugly foe, this virus.

The three-shot, six-month vaccination to prevent cervical cancer has been recommended for girls as young as 11 – or younger. The shots are also recommended for boys in the same age range.

The vaccines have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in both sexes, ages 9 - 26. These vaccines are sold under the brand names Cervarix and Gardasil.

So 112 doctors offered their thoughts on the vaccine, and they didn't hold back. They "expressed concerns about safety, efficacy, morality, receptiveness of parents, and 'interference' by government and the media," a Moffitt press release describes.

Susan T. Vadaparampil, PhD, MPH, associate member of Health Outcomes & Behavior at Moffitt, led the survey, which learned family medicine docs, pediatricians, and OB/GYNs, in general - 

  • Didn't trust the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine
  • Weren't in favor of recommending or giving it to their patients
  • Family medicine physicians thought the vaccine may keep young women from being screened, that girls under the age of 13 didn't need it and that it "promoted promiscuity."

Study co-author Gwendolyn P. Quinn, PhD, associate member at Moffitt and director of the Survey Methods Core Facility, continues summarizing doctor concerns:

  • Some doctors would recommend the vaccine, despite their safety concerns.
  • Parents who objected to the vaccine were "in denial" about their daughters' sexual activity.
  • Requiring the vaccine was okay with some doctors.
  • There were some physicians who supported the vaccine and its use in young men and women over the age of 26.

According to Vadaparampil, doctors also voiced "...cost concerns, institutional policies and procedures and, of course, offered their personal views regarding HPV vaccine,” Vadaparampil said. “Most of those concerned with vaccine costs advocated for insurance reimbursement.”

“HPV vaccination has the potential to reduce cancer-related morbidity and mortality,” concluded Vadaparampil and her co-authors.

“Providers play a key role in widespread vaccination, and this study provided additional insight into factors associated with physician recommendations.”

A report on this study was published online April 18, 2012 in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

Funding and financial disclosures were not freely available.

Review Date: 
June 13, 2012