Mystery Surrounds HPV Vaccination Patterns

HPV vaccination initiation rates lower in black and Hispanic women

(RxWiki News) Cervical cancer isn’t all that common in this country anymore. Virtually all of the cases that do develop arise because of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Two vaccines are available to attack the major cancer-causing strains of this virus. But not all young women get vaccinated.

Recent research found that young African-American women were less likely to start the HPV vaccine program than their white counterparts.

This gap, the researchers learned, didn't have to do with poor access to healthcare or lack of insurance.

The authors of this study suggested that more needs to be done to find out why young black women are not starting this preventive vaccination program.

"Find out more about how HPV vaccines help prevent cancer."

Sonya Borrero, MD, MS, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was the lead investigator for this research.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cervical cancer is more common in Hispanic and black women than it is in white women. Out of 100,000 women, 16 Hispanic, 14 black and 9 white women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.

"Given that cervical cancer is more common and associated with higher mortality in African-American and Hispanic women than in white women, it is especially important to understand the barriers to HPV vaccination for these populations,” Dr. Borrero said in a prepared statement.

This year, an estimated 12,300 women will learn they have cervical cancer. Essentially all of these cancers can be traced back to HPV, a sexually transmitted infection.

Two vaccines — Gardasil and Cervarix — are available to prevent cervical and other genital cancers, as well as genital warts. Given in three shots, the vaccination costs about $400 to complete.

For this study, the researchers looked at data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) to look at the vaccination histories of 2,168 young women between the ages of 15 and 24.

The study found that 33.1 percent of white women started the vaccine, compared with 18.2 percent of black women.

The gap remained even after factoring in access to health care, insurance coverage, income, education and other factors.

Fewer Hispanic young women were vaccinated, but these disparities were largely explained by lack of healthcare access and insurance coverage and other economic variables.

The researchers learned that negative attitudes towards the HPV vaccine may be one of the reasons that young black women had lower vaccination rates.

Young black women also received fewer recommendations from their healthcare providers than their white counterparts, according to the authors.

"Further efforts are needed to understand how to overcome the patient-, parent- and provider-level barriers that hamper widespread uptake for this effective and safe vaccine," Dr. Borrero said.

She noted that other studies have shown higher vaccination rates among young minority women, but concluded these may be the result of different survey methods and changing patterns over time.

“More research is necessary to elucidate factors contributing to HPV vaccination in this population," the authors wrote.

This study was published August 27 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The project was supported by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

None of the authors reported financial conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 29, 2013