Despite HPV vax ad bonanza, low awareness and slacker docs dog uptake

Medical Marketing & Media


October 21, 2011

A little over half of US girls ages 13 to 17 have not gotten even one dose of the HPV vaccine, and among the main reasons are poor awareness and the failure of doctors to recommend vaccination, a study shows.

Despite the millions Merck and GSK have spent advertising Gardasil and Cervarix over the past five years, a lack of knowledge about the vaccine was the top reason given by parents who said they did not intend to have their daughters vaccinated, according to an analysis of data from the 2008 and 2009 National Immunization Survey-Teen published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While 19.4% of those parents said they didn’t know about HPV vaccines, similar proportions said the vaccine was unneeded (18.8%) or that their daughters were not sexually active (18.3%), and 13.1% said they did not receive a provider recommendation.

“We do know that a strong physician recommendation is very important in the decision-making process for consumers when it comes to vaccines,” said Merck spokesperson Jennifer Allen Woodruff. “And managed care coverage is still coming up to speed. That’s certainly a factor,” though less so for Gardasil, she added.

Of those who did initiate the vaccine, only half got all three doses, and while the study found no differences in initiation by race or ethnicity, fewer Black and Hispanic girls completed the series, and income and insurance status were “significantly associated” with initiation.

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