Most oral health students ready to give HPV vaccines

2019 08 02 22 09 5651 Boy Vaccine 400

A majority of oral health students are willing to administer human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to patients to help prevent new cases of oropharyngeal cancer, according to a new study.

Students recognize the importance of recommending HPV vaccines, but patient loads and self-conflict about whether it was their role as oral health professionals to give the vaccines affect their eagerness, the study authors reported in Preventive Medicine Reports (September 2019, Vol. 15:100957).

The researchers believe this is the first multistate study to examine students' willingness to train and administer HPV vaccines.

About 300 third- and fourth-year dental students and dental hygienists from programs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah participated in answering a 153-question online survey. Recruitment for the study, which used a convenience sampling approach, occurred in 2016.

The participants' median overall HPV vaccine knowledge score was almost 70%.

About 84% of participants felt discussing the link between HPV and oropharyngeal cancer fell within their role as dental professionals, and about 58% of participants responded that recommending the vaccine was part of their duties.

In addition, students who agreed that giving patients HPV vaccines in dental offices fell within their roles as dental professionals were 3.8 times more likely to be willing to train to administer the shots compared with those who disagreed.

However, participants recognized time, liability, vaccine safety, and other barriers to discussing or giving the shots. About 52% did not feel comfortable talking about sexual history or related topics with patients and, and approximately 41% said there was not enough time during visits to recommend vaccines.

While the authors noted the sampling approach could be a study limitation, they stated the findings are encouraging. The results align with the Society of Behavioral Medicine's call for an increased, coordinated effort to develop and improve clinical practices and HPV vaccination to address the rising trend of oropharyngeal cancer, they reported.

"It is imperative that dental education emphasizes the importance of HPV vaccination within the curriculum to prepare new generations of oral health professionals as part of these efforts," wrote the authors, led by Deanna Kepka, PhD, MPH, of the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

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