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ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that causes genital warts and, in some cases, cervical cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a vaccine that prevents HPV in women and teenage girls. According to a new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Healthcare Poll, while a large minority (42 percent) of the population has not heard of human papillomavirus (HPV), a large majority (70 percent) of the population supports, or reacts favorably to the widespread use of a new vaccine to prevent it.
These are some of the results of a Harris Interactive online survey of 2,604 U.S. adults, conducted between July 27 and 31, 2006 for The Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition. Almost three in five (58 percent) adults have heard of HPV, and about half (48 percent) have heard or seen that there is a vaccine that can prevent this virus in teenage girls and women. While women are much more likely than men to have heard of HPV (70 percent vs. 47 percent) and of the HPV vaccine (57 percent vs. 38 percent), attitudes toward its use are not very different. Three quarters (75 percent) of women and 64 percent of men agree strongly or somewhat that encouraging girls and young women to get the HPV vaccine is a good way to prevent the future spread of cervical cancer.
A majority (61 percent) of parents of girls under 18 years of age would want their daughters to get the vaccine, and only a few (6 percent) definitely would not, with many (32 percent) undecided. Additionally, 72 percent of these parents say that information about the HPV vaccine should be included in health education classes in school. However, a substantial minority of the public has reservations about use of the HPV vaccine. About one quarter of adults and parents (27 percent each) feels that the HPV vaccine may encourage young girls to become sexually active. A third of adults (34 percent) and 42 percent of parents do not believe that teenage girls should be allowed to get the vaccine without their parents' permission; and fully 44 percent (of both adults and parents) think that abstinence programs are a better way of preventing HPV than medical treatment.