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Improving HPV Vaccine Knowledge
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. While some HPV strains can cause cervical and other cancers, including oropharyngeal cancer, a vaccine is available that can help prevent some of the health consequences associated with infection. However, vaccine uptake is not as widespread as public health officials had hoped, as the “Healthy People 2030” objectives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed a goal of 80% acceptance among the target population.
In an effort to improve compliance — and with the understanding that professional recommendations are a key factor in HPV vaccine uptake — an international team investigated medical and dental students’ knowledge of the 9-valent HPV vaccine and the association between HPV infection and cancer. As reported in the paper, “Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Education and Knowledge Among Medical and Dental Trainees,” published in the Journal of Cancer Education, the researchers also tested an online educational intervention designed to raise awareness of the vaccine and increase recommendations from healthcare professionals.
The authors further suggest that in light of the trainees’ age, the intervention might make some more likely to be vaccinated themselves and this would “further increase the likelihood of recommending vaccination.” Noting the limitations of a relatively small sample size and that HPV curricula within medical and dental schools are not standardized, they report the online intervention “improved baseline HPV and HPV vaccine knowledge and attitudes toward recommending the vaccine to patients.” Based on these findings, they assert this tool could easily be adopted as a means “to effectively disseminate HPV-related information and improve current HPV vaccination practices.”