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HPV News: November 2018

30 Nov 2018

The latest monthly roundup of news, announcements and scientific discoveries from the world of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in November 2018. If you have any comments we’d love to hear from you!

 

Culturally Tailoring HPV Strategies Has Positive Effects

A pilot study presented at the 11th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved found that a culturally tailored multilevel strategy designed to remove barriers to HPV vaccination among low-income, mostly Chinese American adolescent girls and boys significantly increased vaccine uptake. There are certain sub-groups of the Asian American population where HPV vaccination uptake is much lower than the average. However, by directing efforts to increase uptake specifically at these groups, it was found that the percentage of teens who received the vaccine went up by 60%. This study will hopefully be able to be adapted to other minority groups, and so continue to increase vaccination coverage.

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Examining HPV Vaccine Hesitancy

In HPVWorld this month, Gilla Shapiro and Katharine Head have looked at why some parents are so hesitant around HPV vaccination, and what can be done to alleviate any fears concerning the vaccine. Parents who believe the vaccine causes harm are less likely to vaccinate their children, as are parents who find the vaccine harder to access or afford. If a parent believes their child is at a higher risk of HPV infection, they are more likely to vaccinate. Additionally general positive attitudes about vaccines encourage HPV vaccination. However, there are many more reasons behind decisions whether to vaccinate that are more complex. To ensure the success of HPV vaccination programs, more research around reasons not to vaccinate, and the variables around these reasons, is needed.

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UK Government Denies HPV Catch Up Programme to Boys

There has been outcry and backlash against the government as they announced that boys will not receive the same catch up service for the HPV vaccination as girls do. When the vaccine was introduced for girls 10 years ago, a catch up programme was introduced so that all girls up to the age of 18 would be able to receive the vaccine on the NHS. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health has announced that they will not be offering the same service to boys, citing the now debunked theory of herd immunity. The day after this announcement, the Public Health Minister Steve Brine received a letter from 16 leaders of medical groups, including the British Dental Association and the Royal College of Surgeons, asking him to reconsider, based ‘on the grounds of both equity and improved public health, the opportunity must be seized to vaccinate as many boys as possible.’

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GPs Push Back Against NICE Guidelines (UK)

GPs have warned the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that their guidance on referring patients to dentists if there are signs of oral cancer might delay a diagnosis. According to the guidelines, if patients have either a lump on their lip or oral cavity, or a read or white patch in their cavity, they should be sent to a dentist within 2 weeks of seeing a GP. However, the onus is then on the patient to make the appointment with the dentist, and this is often not carried out for a multitude of reasons, including affordability of the dentist and whether the patient is registered with a dentist. GPs are more likely to investigate symptoms of oral cancer, therefore referring to the dentist makes it less likely that a diagnosis will follow.

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Lowest Attendance Rate for Smear Tests in 21 years in the UK

Official figures show that over 25% of women who have been invited to take a cervical cancer smear test have not attended the appointment. The number of attendees has been falling for four years, and 2017-18 was the lowest attendance rate in 21 years. Meanwhile, the number of cervical cancers being diagnosed in women is rising, from 2,528 in 2015 to 2,594 in 2016. Charities have warned the government that the barriers to getting a smear test remain too high, due to the inconvenient appointment times in GPs, budget cuts to sexual health services, and a lack of awareness surrounding cervical cancer and the importance of getting a smear test.

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Investigating Response Strategies to Fake News

Talia Malagon and Juliet Guichon have been looking into how scientists and doctors respond to false or misleading claims about the HPV vaccine. The usual response is to provide evidence from clinical trials to reassure patients, and while this is important, it is also crucial to stress the public health benefits of the vaccine programme. While it can be difficult to do this effectively when the media tends to publish stories intended to scare instead of reassure, pushing this message is therefore all the more important. While using evidence may seem like the most convincing strategy, people are more likely to view facts through what they already believe and have experienced. It is therefore important to respond to false claims with this context in mind. It is also important to develop strategies to combat false information in a more informal context, such as face to face, and horizontally, such as when you are online.

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