Many African American women have a negative attitude toward Gardasil and Cervarix, the two available HPV vaccines (1).
The reason for this negative attitude is unclear (1).
There may be many reasons. For instance, it is possible that these women realize that while these vaccines are designed to help prevent an HPV infection, they do nothing for someone who is already infected.
However, it is still important to understand the reasons why many African American women do not get vaccinated. Dr. Sonya Borrero wrote that “Given that cervical cancer is more common and associated with higher mortality in African-American and Hispanic women than in white women, it is especially important to understand the barriers to HPV vaccination for these populations.” (1)
While Dr. Borrero continued on to say that “Further efforts are needed to understand how to overcome the patient-, parent- and provider-level barriers that hamper widespread uptake for this effective and safe vaccine,” it should be noted that Cancer.gov says on its website concerning the two available HPV vaccines, that they do not treat HPV in individuals already infected with the virus (2).
The bottom line?
Perhaps African American women are cautious for a good reason. WebMD said that “these HPV vaccines are not foolproof. They do not protect against all of the 100-plus types of HPV (3).”
It is also possible that these women are familiar with the disclaimers on the Gardasil website, which notes that:
“GARDASIL may not fully protect everyone, nor will it protect against diseases caused by other HPV types… GARDASIL does not prevent all types of cervical cancer… GARDASIL does not treat cervical cancer or genital warts (4).”
(1) Amanda Gelman, Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., Aletha Y. Akers, M.D., M.P.H., Kwonho Jeong, Sonya Borrero, M.D., M.S.”Racial Disparities in Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: Does Access Matter?” Published Online: August 28, 2013
(2) cancer.gov – Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines – Reviewed: February 19, 2015
(3) webmd.com – HPV/Genital Warts Health Center – HPV Vaccines