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South Nassau ‘Truth in Medicine’ Poll: More than one-third of parents are not aware of CDC recommendations to vaccinate against HPV, a potentially cancer causing disease

37% of parents do not plan to or are not sure if they will vaccinate all of their children

Posted: Jan. 29, 2019

More than one-third of metro area parents are not aware of CDC recommendations to vaccinate against human papillomavirus (“HPV”), a potentially cancer causing disease, according to the latest South Nassau ‘Truth in Medicine’ Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union.

Sixty-one percent of parents have or plan to vaccinate all of their children while 37% percent of parents do not plan to or are not sure if they will vaccinate all of their children against HPV. When asked why they do not plan to vaccinate, 56% are unable to answer, indicate they need to gather more information, or did not know it was for boys. Nineteen percent of these parents believe the HPV vaccine is dangerous.

HPV is a very common virus. Nearly 80 million people—both men and women—are currently infected, with approximately 14 million new people becoming infected each year. HPV affects people of all ages, but it is most common among 25-35 year olds. Many people with HPV never develop symptoms and the virus goes away by itself, but for about 1 in 10 people, it can last longer and may cause certain cancers, such as cervical cancer and other diseases and cancers.

The HPV vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of HPV. Most commonly, HPV infection causes nearly all cervical cancers, but it can also cause oral, anal, vaginal and penile cancers. Still, a stigma remains in many communities that the vaccine should only be used on sexually active girls or that it may promote sexual activity in pre-teens and teens.

“To all of the skeptic parents who still remain in our community, I urge you to speak with your pediatrician or primary care provider. The stigma around HPV and sexual activity should not outweigh significantly decreasing your child’s risk of specific cancers,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, South Nassau’s chief medical officer and executive vice president.

Sixty-percent of respondents are aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends boys receive the HPV vaccine; 36% are not aware. The HPV vaccine can be given to boys as well as girls. Gardasil was approved for females in 2006, and for males in 2009. In October 2018, the FDA expanded the use of Gardasil, just one of the HPV vaccines, to adults up to age 45. The vaccine was previously approved only for adolescents and adults up to age 26.

The HPV vaccine is a very safe and strong tool for preventing certain types of cancers, noted Aaron E. Glatt, MD, South Nassau’s Department of Medicine Chair and Hospital Epidemiologist.

“The HPV vaccine substantially reduces a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. It also reduces the risk of anal carcinoma and other precancerous growths. It is important that preteens, both boys and girls, receive the vaccine at the recommend age to allow enough time to develop an immune response. A vaccine now will prevent cancers caused by HPV later in life,” Dr. Glatt said.

Parents who received the vaccine themselves are most committed to vaccinating their children, although only 13% of these parents were vaccinated and nearly all of them are under 35. Among respondents who have not had the vaccine and are still young enough to receive it based on the new FDA recommendations, only 12% indicate they would consider it now.

The CDC reports that each year HPV causes 33,700 cases of cancer in men and women, including approximately 12,000 cases of cervical cancer, which kills 4,000 people annually. The vaccine can prevent most of the cancers, approximately 31,200 cases, from even forming.

The CDC recommends that all adolescents 11 or 12 years old receive the vaccine before they are exposed to HPV. It is also recommended for females up to age 27 and males up to age 22 if they were not previously vaccinated. For males who have sexual relations with other men, it is recommended up to age 27. The vaccine is given in two doses, although some require three doses.

“In my nearly 50 years in pediatrics, this remains a source of much frustration for me, especially for boys where use of the vaccine has been underappreciated and not emphasized,” said Warren Rosenfeld, MD, Chairman of Pediatrics. “Why would a parent withhold the first anticancer vaccination from their child?”

Experts strongly urge parents to make sure their kids receive all of the recommended doses in order to maximize effectiveness.

The South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents that aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and help spur public education to improve public health. The poll was conducted via both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 13-18 of 600 parents of at least one child under 18 in New York City and on Long Island.

The Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage, was conducted as part of the hospital’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, which has offices in Washington, DC and New Orleans, LA. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in almost every state in the country and around the world.

South Nassau began conducting the public health poll in January 2017. This is South Nassau’s first public health poll of 2019 and the first in partnership with the Mount Sinai Health System. Previous polls have focused on the legalization of recreational marijuana, vaccines and supplements, antibiotic use and misuse, screen time and others. For more information about the polls, please visit www.southnassau.org/sn/truth-in-medicine

“I am proud of the success of South Nassau’s ‘Truth in Medicine’ polls and their ability to raise public awareness around a number of key public health issues,” said Richard J. Murphy, South Nassau’s president and CEO. “We are pleased to have the support of our new partner Mount Sinai and the sponsorship of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, both of whom share in our commitment to advance public education as a way to improve the overall health of the residents we serve.”

“Advances in technology and medicine help prevent diseases that would have been undetected, yet often misinformation stands in our way,” said Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Bethpage. “Bethpage is committed to working with South Nassau on this important community education program that dispels myths and helps saves lives.”

Poll results vary by race and other demographic indicators like whether or not you live in the city or Long Island. Three-quarters of metro area parents have more to learn about vaccines that prevent HPV. Groups especially in need of more information are black parents and fathers. Men, in particular, are lacking information about the HPV vaccine and its use and effectiveness. Long Island residents had more awareness of the vaccine and the age it should be administered than New York City residents.

With increased public education campaigns and with the help of a well-informed medical community, South Nassau can help parents better prepare to vaccinate all of their children.      

The Long Island flagship hospital of the Mount Sinai Health System, South Nassau® Communities Hospital is Designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care. South Nassau is one of the region’s largest hospitals with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, NY, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health and emergency medicine.
    
In addition to its extensive outpatient specialty centers, South Nassau provides emergency and elective angioplasty, and offers Novalis Tx™ and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technologies. South Nassau operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County verified by the American College of Surgeons as well as Long Island’s only free-standing, 9-1-1 receiving Emergency Department in Long Beach. It is also is a designated Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health and Comprehensive Community Cancer Center by the American College of Surgeons, and is an accredited center of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Association and Quality Improvement Program.

In addition, the hospital has been awarded the Joint Commission’s gold seal of approval for disease-specific care for stroke, hip and knee replacement, heart failure, bariatric surgery, wound care and end-stage renal disease.  For more information, visit www.southnassau.org