A considerable proportion of physicians do not strongly recommend or do not consistently discuss the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine during visits from 11- and 12-year-old patients. Publishing their findings in the journal Pediatrics, researchers conducted a national survey among 582 pediatricians and family physicians between October 2013 and January 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends giving the HPV vaccine to 11-to-12-year-old girls and boys in order to protect the young people against the sexually transmitted infection before they become sexually active.

The investigators received responses from 364 of 442 pediatricians (82 percent) and 218 of 387 family physicians (56 percent).

Sixty percent of the pediatricians and 59 percent of the family physicians said they strongly recommend the HPV vaccine for 11-to-12-year-old girls. A respective 52 percent and 41 percent of the physicians strongly recommend the vaccine for boys in this age bracket.

Approximately two-thirds of the pediatricians and half of the family physicians reported almost always or always discussing HPV with their 11-to-12-year-old patients. Reasons cited for not discussing the vaccine included knowing the child was not yet sexually active (54 percent), thinking the patient is too young for the vaccine (38 percent) and presuming the parents would refuse the vaccine (29 percent).

The window for protecting adolescents against HPV begins to close during their teens.

One in three young people have sex by age 16. Preventive care visits drop off after children are 13 to 14 years old.

To read the study abstract, click here.