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Cervical Cancer Health Center

HPV Vaccine Not as Painful as Some Think

Survey Counters Anecdotal Reports That HPV Vaccines Are More Painful Than Other Shots
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The findings could increase the number of young women who start and finish the vaccine series by dispelling the myth that the shots are painful, says Noel T. Brewer, PhD, senior investigator of the study.

"It's important for parents and health care providers to be aware of these findings," Brewer says in the news release. "Doctors and parents can now make better informed decisions about giving adolescent girls HPV vaccine."

The main message of the study: "Getting the HPV vaccine hurts less than you think," Brewer says.

HPV Vaccine vs. Other Vaccines

The study was done by telephone interview of 229 parents in five North Carolina counties.

The study found that:

  • 65% of parents reported their daughters suffered some pain or discomfort after receiving an HPV vaccine, with more reported at time of injection than in the hours and days that followed.
  • Few parents said their children experienced moderate or severe pain at the time of injection or afterward.
  • Parents were more likely to report their daughters suffered a higher level of pain or discomfort from tetanus booster shots and meningococcal vaccines.
  • More parents reported pain at the time of tetanus shot or meningococcal vaccine than the HPV vaccine.

"While many parents in our study reported their daughters experienced pain or discomfort after receiving HPV vaccine, the reported pain was less frequent and less severe than that associated with other adolescent vaccines and did not affect completion of the HPV vaccine regimen," the researchers write.

The researchers urge health care providers to inform parents and their daughters that pain from the HPV shots has been reported as being similar to or less than the discomfort from other adolescent vaccines.

One researcher, Jennifer Smith of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, reported receiving research grants or contracts, honoraria, or consulting fees in the last four years from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck. GlaxoSmithKline makes Cervarix, a vaccine recently approved to prevent cervical cancer in girls and young women. Merck manufacturers Gardasil, recently approved to prevent genital warts in boys and men.

Brewer acknowledges receiving a research grant from Merck on men's attitudes toward HPV, but received no honoraria or consulting fees from Merck or GlaxoSmithKline.

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