Having the “HPV Talk” With Parents and Patients

Premier Pulse     July 2019

By Melinda Ruff, MD, Premier Physician Network

Melinda_Ruff_HS_350x350With the new school year just around the corner, many providers are having conversations with parents about back-to-school vaccinations. One vaccination you should be discussing is for human papillomavirus (HPV).

While HPV vaccination rates are rising, so are cancer cases associated with HPV – from 30,000 in 1999 to more than 43,000 in 2015.

Some providers, however, have a difficult time introducing the idea of the HPV vaccine to their patients. One way to ease into this conversation is to recommend it on the same day and in the same way as all adolescent vaccines. For example, you can suggest that it is time for the Tdap, HPV, and Mendoingitis vaccinations to protect your child from meningitis, HPV cancers, and pertussis. This reduces the emphasis on the HPV vaccination and paves the way for a meaningful discussion.

To prevent cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. The vaccine can be started as early as age 9, and works best when completed before age 13. At this age, the vaccine is given in two shots, with six to 12 months between shots. Starting at age 15, three doses of the vaccine are required. While some people as old as 45 could benefit from the vaccine, public health officials still recommend the vaccine at a younger age.

In addition to the barrier of introducing the need for HPV vaccination, some providers are concerned with addressing the many myths that persist about the vaccine. One myth you might encounter is that the HPV vaccine is unsafe. The truth is that, since 2006, about 70 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed in the United States, with more than 100 million doses given worldwide. The vaccination’s safety is continually monitored in 80 countries, and no serious concerns have been identified, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You might also encounter opinions among parents that the vaccine is unnecessary unless a person is sexually active. The truth is that we vaccinate people well before they’re exposed to an infection, such as measles and other diseases prevented by childhood vaccines. So providers want to vaccinate people before they are exposed to HPV. The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older teens and young women. The vaccine also prevents twice as much cervical pre-cancer when given by age 14 than it does as teenagers approach their 16th birthday. You might also advise parents of patients to keep in mind that HPV is so common that nearly everyone will be infected at some point in their lives. An estimated 79 million Americans are currently infected, and there are about 14 million new HPV infections each year. Most people who are infected will never know it.

Providers have an opportunity to earn continuing medical education credits while learning more about HPV through a documentary called “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic.” The activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ by Indiana University School of Medicine. The free, knowledge-based activity is accredited for 1.5 CE credit hour(s) (0.15 CEU) for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Statements of credit will be posted to the online NABP/ACPE CPE Monitor within six weeks after the activity. No partial credit will be given.

For more information on continuing education credits and to view the film, please visit https://iu.cloud-cme.com/SomeoneYouLove.

  • Nurses who view the film at a live event and would like credit can complete an online evaluation.
  • Physicians or pharmacists who watch the film at a live event and would like credit can follow the online instructions.
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