From the Journals

Emphasize disease prevention in communications about HPV vaccine



Parents were much more confident about vaccinating their children against the human papillomavirus (HPV) when they were told about the diseases that the vaccine prevents rather than about safety, new research found.

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In Pediatrics, researchers reported the outcomes of an online video-messaging study that attempted to address the most common parental questions and concerns about the HPV vaccine. They surveyed a national sample of 1,196 parents of children (aged 9-17 years) who watched four brief videos of a pediatrician talking about one of seven common concerns regarding HPV vaccination. The parents then were asked how each video affected them.

Parents who were exposed to messages about the diseases that the HPV vaccine prevented had the highest confidence in the HPV vaccine (46%). These messages included “HPV is a common virus that millions of people get every year. The HPV vaccine will protect your child from some cancers and genital warts” and “HPV infection can cause cancer in both men and women. The HPV vaccine will protect your child from many of these cancers.”

Similarly, parents exposed to messages about the need for HPV vaccination for both boys and girls also had the highest levels of confidence about HPV vaccination (44%).

Confidence was lower in parents exposed to messages about safety and side effects (30%)

“As such, reiterating vaccination benefits (including cancer prevention) when addressing concerns may also improve the impact of messages,” wrote Parth D. Shah, PhD, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and his coauthors.

Parents who received messages that expressed urgency about vaccination had lower confidence in the HPV vaccine.

“One reason may be that parents who are hesitant feel inappropriately rushed or that their concerns are not being treated with appropriate care,” the authors wrote.

However, messages that required a higher reading grade level and messages that were longer also seemed to inspire more confidence among parents. Parents who were exposed to messages about cancer prevention additionally were even more confident in HPV vaccine, Dr. Shah and his associates reported.

The study also found that 84% of parents wanted to talk to their children’s doctor about the diseases that the HPV vaccine prevented, while 68% wanted to talk about safety and side effects.

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Shah was partially supported by an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality grant. Another author declared being on paid advisory boards of research grants from Merck, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline. No other conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Shah PD et al. Pediatrics. 2019 Feb. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-1872.

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