Why teens may be behind on vaccinations

Why teens may be behind on vaccinations

POSTED: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 9:00am

UPDATED: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 9:04am

A new survey finds even though vaccines for certain teenage illnesses are available and are found to be safe, many parents aren't having their teens inoculated. The question is why?

Researchers looked at parent questionnaires collected through a national survey called "Reasons for Not Vaccinating Adolescents: National Survey of Teens, 2008-2010." Investigators wanted to better understand why moms and dads aren't taking their older children in for recommended inoculations.

"These vaccines are safe and effective and people should really have their teens get them," says Dr. Paul Darden, lead author of the study and professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. "Parents say pediatricians are telling them about the vaccines, yet they just don't seem to understand why they are necessary or are skeptical about their safety."

When parents of teens were asked why their children didn't receive certain forms of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) and meningitis vaccine, some parents noted these shots were not recommended or not necessary, according to the study. Others did not have a reason.

Regarding the controversial and fairly new vaccine that protects against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus - which has been linked to cancer - some parents also said it was not necessary. In other cases parents noted their children were not sexually active or were not the appropriate age to receive the vaccine.

Concerns of mothers and fathers about the safety of the HPV vaccine grew each year, from 4.5% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2010, according to the study. The number of parents who said they would not vaccinate their children for HPV increased from 39.8% in 2008 to 43.9% in 2010. The main concern was safety.

Investigators were surprised, because the vaccine has been found to be very effective in preventing the virus that causes cervical cancer in young women.

"We thought perhaps many parents would think the HPV vaccine would give kids permission to have sex, and therefore not allow their children to get it. But that wasn't it," explained Darden. "They seemed to be skeptical of its safety, which is odd, because it's shown to be effective with few side effects. We have a vaccine that protects against cancer. Why not vaccinate your child? I don't get it."

Although cost was not a major concern, it was a factor for some parents, the study found.

The lackadaisical attitude of some parents when it comes to these kids' vaccines has study authors concerned. Investigators concluded more doctors need to stress to parents the benefits of these particular vaccines and why it's important to get their teenagers vaccinated.

The study can be found in this week's journal of Pediatrics.
 

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