Objective: To determine whether parents think receiving human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine encourages sexual activity in their children.
Materials and methods: Parents of children 9 to 17 years old living in Georgia and South Carolina completed a 53-item questionnaire that evaluated their opinions about the HPV vaccine and their feelings about whether receiving it encourages sexual intercourse in their children. Fisher exact tests and t tests were used to identify differences between groups.
Results: Participants tended to be white, protestant mothers, 30 to 39 years old with private health insurance. Most parents (301/322, 93.5%) did not believe receiving the HPV vaccine would encourage their child to have sex. Parents who believed the vaccine would encourage sex were more likely to have 15- to 17-year-old children (76% vs 37%, p =.0007), were 40 years or older (62% vs 35%, p =.019), have religious objections to vaccines in general (10% vs 0.3%, p =.01) and the HPV vaccine (14% vs 2%, p =.02), and believed the vaccine would not reduce the risk of cervical cancer in their daughters (50% vs 9%, p =.001).
Conclusions: Most parents do not think the HPV vaccine would actually encourage sexual activity in their children. Therefore, health care providers can be less hesitant in recommending the vaccine to young sexually naive girls. Additional education should help improve overall parental understanding about the HPV vaccine and, consequently, vaccination rates.