Study to Understand Why Virginia Girls Opt Out of HPV Vaccine

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- Although Virginia was one of the first states to pass legislation mandating the human papilloma virus vaccine for sixth-grade girls, the Commonwealth has fallen behind the national average of the number of girls actually getting vaccinated. Now researchers at the University of Virginia want to know why.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is three shots series that can prevent a deadly disease.

"It's the only vaccine we have to prevent cases of cancer," said UVa assistant professor Jessica Keim-Malpass.

Keim-Malpass says the vaccine protects against the four most common strains of HVP that cause cervical cancer, and is recommended for girls, and boys, as young as nine.

"The best way that the vaccine can work is by administering it before they do become sexually active. That's why we don target that sixth grade age range," Keim-Malpass said.

However, Keim-Malpass says the vaccine is hard to sell to parents.

"I'm both a pediatric and an oncology nurse, so I've seen these cancer cases on the tail end of it, which is hard to explain to parents who are very very far removed from the anticipated outcome of the vaccine," Keim-Malpass said.

Now Keim-Malpass and her colleague, assistant professor Emma Mitchell want to find out what can be done to encourage parents to get their child vaccinated.

"What are some of the barriers and what are some of the supports to getting the entire vaccine," said Mitchell. "We're interested in looking at different socioeconomic groups, that's an indicator, and children who already have complex medical statuses."

Compared to the nation's 38 percent vaccination rate among young women in 2014, only 27.9 percent of Virginia's girls received the all three shots of the vaccination.

"That's something public health officials, and the CDC, and state and local health officials are really concerned about. Ideally more of them would be doing the vaccine," said Keim-Malpass.

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