Around 20 per cent of girls from ethnic minority backgrounds are not being vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) because they feel they don't need it, according to a Cancer Research UK survey presented today at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

The authors say this is the first study done with an ethnically diverse group of girls to look at why they are not vaccinated, or do not complete the series of injections. Researchers found that 17 percent of girls from black backgrounds and 22 percent of girls from Asian backgrounds who hadn't been vaccinated said that they did not need the vaccination and the reasons they gave included that they did not expect to be sexually active before marriage. 

Unvaccinated girls from black backgrounds were most likely - 20 percent of those surveyed - to say their parents did not allow them to have the vaccination. The authors instead speculate they had not had a conversation with their parents about the vaccine.

Concerns about side effects of the vaccination were most commonly reported by unvaccinated girls from white backgrounds - 27 percent.

 Reasons included: 'Because I am not sexually active and will not be until I get married' and: 'My Mum didn't think it was necessary for me to have the vaccine since I won't be sleeping around.' 

The questionnaire was given to girls aged 15-16 in ethnically diverse schools in London including girls from white, black, Asian and other ethnicities. Although the majority of the 2,163 girls included in the research had been fully vaccinated, 233 were unvaccinated and 122 under vaccinated - meaning they didn't have every dose of the vaccine.

The vaccination protects against infection from the two types of Human Papilloma Virus that cause seven in 10 cases of cervical cancer, as well as two other types of the virus linked with genital warts. It is offered as a series of two injections over at least six months to UK schoolgirls aged 12 -13.

Dr. Alice Forster, study author and Cancer Research UK scientist at University College London, said, "Although around 87 percent of girls in the UK do have the vaccine it's concerning to see that some girls from some ethnic minority groups feel they don't need to have it.

Around 3000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK and 900 die from the disease. The HPV vaccination prevents infection from HPV and reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Source: Cancer Research UK