HPV vaccination rates among adolescents increase but just slightly

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. For this reason, the CDC recommends that adolescents, both male and female, get the HPV vaccine around the ages of 11 or 12 to prevent cancers and genital warts caused by HPV, but the 2 vaccines available are licensed, safe, and effective for females ages 9 through 26 years, all of whom should get protected if they have not already done so. (Also, all boys aged 11 or 12 years, and males aged 13 through 21 years, who did not get any or all of the three recommended doses when they were younger, should get the 3-shot series).

However, according to anew report released by the CDC, the rate of vaccination has only increased slightly since 2012 and numbers remain far below the national goal of 80 percent coverage. Researchers used data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen of 18,000 13 to 17-year olds. Vaccination status is based on self-report as well as confirmation from healthcare providers. Researchers found that among girls ages 13 to 17, those reporting receiving at least one dose of the vaccine rose from about 54 percent in 2012 to about 57 percent in 2013. Only about 38 percent of those girls received all three doses, up from 33 percent in 2012. There was a greater increase among boys but it was quite small. Those who reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine rose from about 21 percent in 2012 to about 35 percent in 2013.

According to Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, these low numbers are a result of missed opportunities, on the part of healthcare providers. She says that if the HPV vaccine was given with other routine vaccinations, the percentage vaccinated would have been at 90 percent by the end of 2013. Furthermore, although vaccine safety is not much of a concern anymore as healthcare providers and parents have learned that the vaccines are safe, more than 30 percent of parents reported believing that the vaccines are not necessary.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan had this to say: We in public health are continuing to promote the HPV vaccine to reduce the rates of HPV infection. This common virus, among those in whom it persists, has been clearly linked to genital warts as well as cancers of numerous organs, including the cervix, ano-rectum, and throat. Although the increased numbers are encouraging in that they do not show a decrease or stagnation in terms of vaccination rate, we must do more to educate parents and healthcare providers about the necessity of the vaccine so that the national goal of at least 80 percent coverage can be reached, although there is no reason why this number shouldn t be higher.