Cervical Cancer: 1 in 4 Parents Are Not Aware of HPV - Vaccines Today

Cervical Cancer: 1 in 4 Parents Are Not Aware of HPV – Vaccines Today

The pandemic has made parents more inclined to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases, but awareness of HPV must be improved if Europe is to eradicate the disease.

Has COVID-19 changed parents’ awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases? Has the pandemic made them more likely to ask their doctor about a vaccination? What does the public know about the link between human papillomaviruses (HPV) and cancer – and the potential to protect against disease through vaccination?

These were among the questions asked to more than 7,000 parents as part of an online eight-country survey of parents. The research, conducted by IPSOS and commissioned by MSD, explored the knowledge and opinions of parents in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Slovenia.

Main results

  • 73% of parents are aware of HPV
  • 1 in 5 people who are aware of HPV do not know that it can cause cancer
  • 61% feel more familiar with vaccination after a pandemic
  • 90% think it is important for their children to be vaccinated against diseases other than COVID-19
  • 43% feel overwhelmed by vaccine information

While uptake of COVID-19 vaccines among children has been lower than in the adult population, the pandemic has prompted nine in 10 parents to consider routine childhood vaccinations important.

The vast majority (68%) of parents who responded to the survey said they were now more likely to ensure their child was vaccinated, with 65% saying they were more likely to proactively ask their doctor about vaccinations for diseases other than COVID-19.

Vaccination of girls and boys is a priority for the European Union’s joint action on HPV vaccination

A lot of information?

The pandemic has seen a strong increase in vaccine-related conversations, with unprecedented communication efforts from health authorities, academics, health care providers, and industry. At the same time, there has been a significant rise in the level of misinformation about vaccines, particularly on social media.

This has combined to leave some parents with information overload. 49% said there was “too much information on vaccinations now available due to COVID-19”, while 43% felt “overwhelmed”.

Esra Urkmez of ENGAGe, the European network of women’s cancer advocacy groups, encouraged parents to use reliable sources, such as the World Health Organization, when seeking vaccination.

As a mother, I know that all parents simply want the best for their children. That’s why it’s so important for us to do our own research, and have the right information we need to help us make informed, powerful decisions about the health of our loved ones and the prevention of certain diseases and cancers, she said.

Information overload: Many young parents feel overwhelmed by the amount of health information

However, over the past two years, it has become increasingly difficult for parents to navigate the vast and complex amounts of information regarding vaccines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Urkmez said discussing topics such as HPV vaccination with a healthcare professional is vital before making a decision to vaccinate.

“It’s important for parents to feel reassured and know that something like the HPV vaccine is not new and has been thoroughly studied and researched,” she said. “If anyone is unsure, they should simply speak with their healthcare professional to get more information about how to prevent some types of cancer in men and women.”

Cervical cancer eradication

The survey highlighted parents’ knowledge of human papillomavirus (HPV) – the cause of almost all cervical cancer, and the cause of many other infectious diseases in men and women.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of parents said they were aware of HPV, but only half (55%) said they felt familiar with it. Even among those who are aware of HPV, less than half (48%) know that it causes the disease in both men and women.

Europe aims to eliminate cervical cancer through vaccination, screening and testing, which makes it essential to raise awareness of HPV and take vaccinations. With many European countries offering HPV vaccines only to girls, experts said girls and boys should get protection. Catalonia has become the latest region to add the HPV vaccine for teenagers to its vaccination schedule.

Speaking at the release of the survey results, Dr. Xavier Bosch, Catalan Institute of Oncology, said the results indicated increased awareness of HPV, but called for greater efforts to get routine vaccination back on track.

“The research shows positive insights into increasing levels of awareness of HPV among parents across Europe,” he said. However, there is still more work to be done to reprioritize public immunization and screening programmes, along with more efforts to prevent the spread of HPV and the potential growth in the prevalence of cancer-causing HPV.

The new European Union joint action on HPV vaccination, which is part of Europe’s plan to combat cancer, aims to ensure that 90% of girls are vaccinated against HPV by the age of 15, and will support a significant increase in the vaccination of boys. This could add momentum to the campaign to end cervical cancer in Europe – something Australia, one of the first countries to adopt HPV vaccines, expects to achieve within 20 years.

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2022-06-03 09:49:52

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