‘Parents are more likely to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases as a result of the pandemic, but HPV awareness must be improved if Europe is to eliminate the disease,’ says the WHO.
Was COVID-19 a success in terms of educating parents about vaccine-preventable diseases? As a result of the pandemic, were they more likely to seek medical advice about vaccinations? What do people know about HPV and cancer, as well as the possibility of disease prevention through vaccination?
Over 7,000 parents were asked these questions as part of an eight-country online parent survey. MSD commissioned the IPSOS study, which examined parents’ knowledge and opinions in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, and Slovenia.
73 percent of parents are aware of HPV.
One out of every five people who know about HPV are unaware that it can cause cancer.
Following the pandemic, 61% are more informed about vaccination.
90% believe that immunizing their children against diseases other than COVID-19 is critical.
43 percent of people are perplexed by vaccine-related information.
Despite the fact that children received fewer COVID-19 vaccines than adults, the pandemic has persuaded nine out of ten parents that routine childhood immunizations are critical.
The vast majority of parents polled (68%) said they are more likely to ensure their child is vaccinated, and 65 percent said they are more likely to inquire with their doctor about vaccines for diseases other than COVID-19.
Girls and boys are prioritized in the EU Joint Action on HPV Vaccination.
Is there an information overload here?
Vaccine-related debates have exploded during the pandemic, thanks to unprecedented communication efforts from health officials, academics, healthcare providers, and industry. Simultaneously, vaccine misinformation has grown, particularly on social media.
As a result, some parents have information overload. According to 49 percent, there is ‘too much information regarding vaccinations available now due to COVID-19,’ while 43 percent are ‘overwhelmed.’
According to Esra Urkmez of ENGAGe, the European Network of Gynaecological Cancer Advocacy Groups, when researching vaccination, parents should consult reputable sources such as the WHO.
‘I understand as a mother that all parents want the best for their children. That is why conducting our own research and obtaining accurate information is critical for us to make informed and empowered decisions about our loved ones’ health and the prevention of certain diseases and cancers,’ she explained.
The amount of health information available to young parents is frequently overwhelming.
‘However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for parents over the last two years to navigate vast and complex amounts of vaccine information.’ Urkmez believes it is critical to consult with a healthcare professional before deciding to vaccinate against HPV.
‘It is critical that parents have confidence and understanding that something as novel as the HPV vaccine has been thoroughly researched and studied,’ she says. ‘Anyone who is unsure should speak with their doctor to learn more about how men and women can prevent certain cancers.’
Abolition of cervical cancer
The survey focused on parental knowledge of human papillomaviruses (HPV), which cause nearly all cervical cancers and a wide range of infectious diseases in both men and women.
Even though nearly three-quarters of parents (73%) were aware of HPV, only half (55%) were knowledgeable about it. Even among those who knew about HPV, less than half (48%) knew that it caused disease in both men and women.
Increased HPV awareness and vaccine uptake are critical to Europe’s goal of eliminating cervical cancer through vaccination, screening, and testing. Despite the fact that many European countries only provide HPV vaccines to women, experts believe that both men and women should be protected. Catalonia is the most recent region to incorporate HPV vaccination into their adolescent boy vaccination schedule.
Dr. Xavier Bosch of the Catalan Institute of Oncology stated at the survey’s launch that the findings point to increased HPV awareness, but he called for additional efforts to get routine immunisation back on track.
‘The study provides encouraging insights into increased HPV awareness among European parents,’ he says. ‘However, more work is needed to reprioritize general immunisation and screening programmes, as well as additional efforts to prevent HPV spread and a possible increase in cancer-causing HPV prevalence.’
The new EU Joint Action on HPV Vaccination, part of the Europe Beating Cancer Plan, aims to vaccinate 90% of girls by the age of 15, while encouraging a significant increase in boy vaccination. As an early adopter of HPV vaccines, Australia hopes to eliminate cervical cancer within the next 20 years.