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The Making of Medicine

Too Many People Don’t Know About the HPV Vaccine

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for more than 90% of cervical and anal cancers and 75% of vaginal cancers. But more than 25% of Virginians don't realize there's a vaccine available to prevent it, a new study finds.

Our Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, and his collaborators, including colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center, surveyed almost 1,500 Virginians to identify the groups least likely to know about the HPV vaccine. Those least likely to be aware included males, urban residents and people who reported lower incomes. On the other hand, those most likely to know of the vaccine included younger people, part-time workers and those with higher education.

The researchers suspect that so many part-time workers knew of the vaccine because the group includes many younger people. There was more vaccine awareness among younger people than among older ones in general.

Professor Balkrishnan notes that the survey results can help inform state efforts to increase uptake of the important vaccine. More than 4,000 American women will die this year of cervical cancer alone.

“Increased knowledge and use of the HPV vaccine is crucial in reducing the spread of the virus and associated cancer risk in Virginia,” Professor Balkrishnan said. “And knowledge is only the first step to increasing HPV vaccination rates. We need policies to prioritize the uptake of this vaccine in all Virginia teens.”

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