Study Finds Many College-Age Women Have Not Been Vaccinated to Prevent Human Papillomavirus

It’s been more than a decade since a vaccine was introduced to prevent contraction of human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends patients start receiving the vaccine between ages 11 and 12, with catch-up vaccination recommended for certain groups through age 26. However, a new study led by Alica L. Best, an assistant professor in the College of Health at the University of South Florida in Tampa, has found many female college students have not been inoculated and religion may be a contributing factor.

Some parents oppose vaccinating their children against HPV because they are not sexually active and believe it’s not necessary. Others feel vaccinating children could promote sexual activity. The study found that 25 percent of college-age women had not been vaccinated. Of those unvaccinated students, 70 percent identified with a particular religious faith.

“The whole point of the vaccine is to protect people against high-risk types of HPV before exposure – so ideally before they’re sexually active,” explains Dr. Best. “College is often a time of sexual exploration and autonomous decision-making. So, while a student’s parents may have previously opposed the HPV vaccine for religious or other reasons, these students may decide vaccination is right for them now. Therefore, college students are a key group that must be educated on the importance of HPV vaccination.”

Dr. Best joined the faculty at the University of South Florida in 2015. She is a graduate of Alabama State University. Dr. Best earned a master of public health degree at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and a Ph.D. in health promotion, education, and behavior from the University of South Carolina.

The full study, “Examining the Influence of Religious and Spiritual Beliefs on HPV Vaccine Uptake Among College Women,” was published in the Journal of Religion and Health. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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