Even though the HPV vaccine is a powerful tool that can prevent future cancers, many parents choose not to vaccinate their children, citing safety concerns or a lack of necessity. Another reason they delay or reject HPV vaccination is purity culture.
Purity culture is a set of beliefs and practices that emphasize the importance of sexual purity, especially for young women. It teaches that sex should only be within the context of marriage and that any sexual activity outside marriage is sinful.
Research suggests that purity culture can have a negative impact on HPV vaccine uptake.
Studies have shown that girls raised in purity culture are more likely to delay or refuse the HPV vaccine, believing that because they plan to abstain from sexual activity before marriage, they do not need protection from a sex-related infection. Some purity culture parents believe vaccinating their children against a common sexually transmitted infection will lead to promiscuity despite studies showing that this is not the case.
When discussing the HPV vaccine with parents, it is important to convey that HPV vaccination is not a moral issue; studies tell us that getting vaccinated doesn’t make kids more likely to start having sex. But by vaccinating their daughters and sons, they have the power to protect them from cancer and give them a brighter, healthier future.
As trusted messengers, healthcare providers have the opportunity to normalize HPV vaccination and address parents’ stigmatizing beliefs about the HPV vaccine.