More American teenagers are getting vaccinated for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, than ever before. This is good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because close to half of all Americans are infected with the sexually-transmitted virus at any time. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, and back of the throat. Of those diagnosed with HPV, 32,000 get cancer from it each year. The vaccination, which was released for girls in 2006 and boys in 2011, could have prevented about 90 percent of the 32,000 cancer diagnoses this year. Despite growing acceptance of the HPV vaccine and updated guidelines, there are still parents who are hesitant about vaccinations. As a locum tenens physician, how do you ease parental concerns about HPV vaccinations?
Tips for Locum Tenens on How to Ease Parental Concerns About HPV Vaccinations
Prepare yourself. Parents are going to have many questions about HPV. Let’s face it – it can be a little awkward talking about sexually transmitted diseases and vaccinations in regard to an 11-year-old child. In fact, it is so awkward that nearly one-third of physicians admit that they delay this uncomfortable conversation, a 2016 study found. Physicians who delay the conversation have their reasons. Physicians say parents will decline the shot anyway or they will argue that their child isn’t even sexually active yet. However, the HPV vaccination works best when children are injected between the ages of 11 and 12 years old. Guidelines strongly recommend it is given as close to this age group as possible. Despite your reservations or a patient’s patients hesitation, it is important to keep your adolescent patients and their guardians informed about HPV and cancer prevention. Here are some tips for how to ease parental concerns about HPV vaccinations.
Don’t delay the conversation
Although the HPV vaccine conversation can be awkward, don’t delay it. Depending on the parents, discussing any type of vaccination can be an uncomfortable and sensitive subject. This is why it’s important to have the conversation when it’s time to do it and to be personal about it. Listen to their concerns for why they don’t want their child vaccinated and don’t be dismissive of them, otherwise, you may push them further from the idea of vaccinating their child(ren). However, at the same time, find a way to explain to them why they should choose to vaccinate their child. Do this by making it personal or by sharing stories of people who are struggling as a result of not getting the vaccination.
Make sure they know why it’s important
The second way to ease parental concerns about HPV vaccinations is to explain to them why it is so important. Physicians should share with parents the statistics on how common HPV is and how effective the vaccine is. For example, HPV is passed through skin-on-skin contact, so condoms are not 100 percent effective in preventing it. There are many different types of HPV, and an estimated 80 percent of men and women will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some time in their life. If you seem hesitant to have the conversation or are unsure of the facts about HPV and the vaccination, this will fuel doubt in parents. Be assertive and confident when discussing HPV with your patients.
Keep the chat brief
With all that said, it’s also a good idea to keep the conversation brief. Recent studies found that the wordier physicians are when discussing HPV vaccinations, the less responsive patients seem to be. Cut to the chase – HPV is a vaccine that will help to prevent cancers your child could develop as an adult. It is extremely important for both men and women to have this vaccination. Although it was developed for women first, a vaccination for men was released in 2011. HPV vaccination rates are increasing, but rates are still lower when it comes to vaccinating boys compared to girls.
If a parent is adamant about not vaccinating their child, there is not much you can do other than reminding them each visit that the vaccination is available. What additional tips do you have for how to ease parental concerns about HPV vaccinations? Share them with us in the comment section below!