Parents are generally accepting of the hypothetical scenario of vaccinating their adolescent children against infection, whether the infection is sexually transmitted or not, according to a study in the February issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Several vaccines for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are in development, according to background information in the article. Because an ideal STI immunization program would target young adolescents and preadolescents before they become sexually active, much of the decision-making burden would be placed on parents. It has been suggested that pediatricians may be reluctant to recommend STI vaccination in anticipation of negative parental reactions.
Gregory D. Zimet, PhD, from Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and his colleagues analyzed the responses of 278 parents to questionnaires to evaluate how their willingness to vaccinate their children related to four possible variables: mode of transmission, whether the infection was sexually transmitted or not; severity of the infection, whether the infection was curable, chronic or fatal; vaccine efficacy, 50 percent, 70 percent or 90 percent effective; and whether or not a behavioral method for prevention was available (for example, handwashing or condom use).
Parents were as willing to vaccinate their children against STIs as other types of infection (81.3 versus 80.0 on the studys rating scale), the researchers found. The most important determinants for parents in making their decision were the severity of the infection and the vaccines effectiveness. Parents favored vaccines for infections that had no methods of behavioral prevention available.
Most parents are focused on protecting their childrens health and not so concerned about the source of infection, the authors concluded. Clearly, the severity of disease and the efficacy of the vaccine were much more salient dimensions to these parents than were sexual transmissibility... If these findings are replicated in other samples of parents, it will be important to inform pediatricians and other physicians and nurses that most parents will be likely to accept recommendations regarding STI vaccination.
This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md.
Editorial: Parental Acceptability of Vaccines for Sexually Transmitted Infections
In an editorial accompanying this study, Susan L. Rosenthal, PhD, Lawrence R. Stanberry, MD, PhD, from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, write that vaccines have great promise for the reduction of transmission of STIs. Vaccines for some STIs may be on the market soon and parents will be the key decision makers about vaccine acceptance for adolescents.
We must continue to examine (1) characteristics of vaccines that influence decision making; (2) how parents and adolescents process information both about the diseases and the vaccines; (3) characteristics of parents and adolescents associated with vaccine acceptance, and (4) barriers to vaccination. The findings from such research will facilitate the development of educational programs, strategies for dissemination, and the creation of policies necessary to reduce barriers.
Vaccination will only be effective if it is taken up widely, the editorial authors added. Thus, it will take a body of research on STI vaccine acceptance, such as that being conducted by Zimet et al, to ensure that once STI vaccines are available we can maximize uptake by parents and health care professionals of adolescents, they concluded.