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Forty Percent of Parents Don’t Know the HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Cancer

New York — Throughout National Immunization Awareness Month (August), Planned Parenthood encourages parents to protect their children’s health by learning more about the HPV vaccine and getting both girls and boys vaccinated to protect against HPV-related cancers. Despite the availability of the HPV vaccine, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 have received all three doses.

“August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a perfect time to learn more about HPV and the importance of getting vaccinated to protect against HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancer, throat cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer,” said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president of external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The fact is that the HPV vaccine saves lives. One of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health is to make sure they get all recommended vaccines, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Unfortunately, a recent national survey found that not enough parents have accurate information about the HPV vaccine and why it is so important to vaccinate their children against HPV.”  

A national survey of parents that Planned Parenthood Federation of America conducted with the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU found that not enough parents have accurate information about the HPV vaccine and why it is important to vaccinate their children against HPV. The survey found:


  • Three in 10 (29 percent) parents didn’t know if HPV can cause cervical cancer, or if the HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer (31 percent). Another 10 percent and nine percent of parents got the questions wrong, respectively.



  • Nearly half (48 percent) of parents reported not knowing if HPV can cause cancer in boys and men. Another 12 percent of parents got the question wrong, saying it couldn’t.


“Despite recent increases in HPV vaccine uptake, efforts to further increase vaccination rates among early adolescents remain an important national public health priority. Increasing parent awareness and provider endorsement of HPV vaccination of adolescents is critical to reducing HPV related cancers,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, RN, a professor at New York University and the director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health.

Other national surveys have found that 35 percent of Americans have never heard of HPV, and 89 percent have never discussed HPV with their health care provider.

“Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., and it can cause cancer in both women and men,” Dr. Cullins said. “The HPV vaccine is supported by leading medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as safe and effective.”

The HPV vaccine is safe for both girls and boys. Young people should get the vaccine when they are 11 to 12 years old because the vaccine works best when people receive it before any possible HPV exposure. Two of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Gardasil 9) protect against anal cancer in both women and men. Boys should get one of these HPV vaccines to prevent anal cancer and genital warts. Girls can get either of these vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer and genital warts. Leading medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as Planned Parenthood, support young people having access to the HPV vaccine.

“As the nation’s leading women’s health provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood encourages everyone to visit their health care provider to discuss the benefits of the HPV vaccine – and we encourage women to receive regular checkups that may include cervical cancer screenings and testing for STIs,” Dr. Cullins added. “You can rely on Planned Parenthood for accurate, nonjudgmental, and high-quality information and care, including HPV vaccines, Pap tests and other cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for STIs.”

Planned Parenthood believes that everyone deserves access to affordable, quality health care, and our doors are open to everyone. In 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide provided nearly 400,000 Pap tests and 35,000 HPV vaccinations. To find a Planned Parenthood health center near you, or to find more information about the HPV vaccine, visit plannedparenthood.org.


Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.