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Study shows racial disparities in HPV vaccination

Much has been written here and elsewhere about the lower-than-ideal number of women and girls who get vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV). (The concern, of course, is that these patients are missing out on the opportunity to reduce their risk of sexually transmitted disease and cancer.) Now, a study out of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine appearing in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows (as has past research) that some young women of color are even less likely than their white counterparts to get vaccinated.

As described in a press release:

Led by [Sonya Borrero, MD], researchers used data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), a nationwide cross-sectional survey administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to examine the effect of race/ethnicity on HPV vaccine initiation in adolescent girls and young women and to determine whether access to health care influences this relationship.

In this nationally representative sample of 2,168 females aged 15 to 24, African-Americans were significantly less likely than whites to have initiated HPV vaccination, 18.2 percent vs. 33.1 percent respectively. That disparity persisted even after taking into account socio-demographic factors and access to health care. Observed disparities in HPV vaccination for Hispanics, on the other hand, were largely explained by socio-demographic and health care access variables, the researchers found.

Referencing their finding that African-American patients are also less likely than white patients to have a health-care provider recommend the vaccine, Borrero and her co-authors suggest that improving access to health care among this population might not do the trick in solving the problem. "Perhaps, addressing negative attitudes and beliefs and increasing provider recommendation for HPV vaccination will be fruitful in increasing HPV vaccination rates in this population," they write.

Previously: HPV-associated cancers are rising, HPV vaccination rates still too low, new national report says, Only one-third of teenage girls get HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and The cost of forgoing routine vaccinations

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