A 2008 survey, conducted before Cervarix was approved, found that only about half of American mothers intended to have daughters younger than 13 vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), despite government guidelines suggesting the opposite.
These authors looked at medical records on 9,658 girls and women aged 9 through 26 who were seen at the University of Maryland Medical Center between August 2006 and August 2010.
Only 27.3 percent of them opted to start the vaccine.
And of these, 39.1 percent completed just one dose, 30.1 percent got two doses and 30.7 percent finished the series.
Blacks were less likely than white women to get all three doses, and women aged 18 through 26 were less likely than younger girls to complete the series.
Dr. Mark Wakabayashi, chief of gynecologic oncology at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., thinks suspicions about vaccines in general, including a lingering concern that childhood vaccinations can cause autism, may cause some reluctance. Those fears about autism are generally considered to be unfounded.
The stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases may also be a deterrent. "There are these connotations with sexually transmitted diseases, so I think a lot of parents feel that, when you're talking about minors, everybody else should have the vaccine except their own child," said Wakabayashi, who recommends the vaccine to his patients.
Tracy speculated that women aged 18 to 26 may be caught up in life's transitions at that point, like leaving home and going to college. For many young women, this is the first time they are making their own medical decisions.
As for the younger age group, parents also get busy or may be less enthusiastic about a second dose if there was a side effect, such as pain at the injection site or fainting, after the first shot,
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