Nearly half of all adolescent girls are still skipping the recommended HPV vaccine, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report shows that the human papillomavirus vaccination rates for this group remained relatively unchanged for 2012, with 53.8% of teen girls receiving one dose of the vaccine and only 33.4% completing the three dose series. The numbers mirror percentages from 2011, when 53% of adolescent girls received one dose of the HPV vaccine and 34.8% completed the series.
The CDC previously attributed these low vaccination rates in part to the inadequate number of encounters with healthcare providers. However, new reports have shown that 84% of un-vaccinated girls have visited a doctor or other provider's office, where they have received other vaccinations but did not receive the HPV vaccine. The report suggests that coverage could be as high as 92.6% if the HPV vaccination had been initiated during these visits.
The HPV vaccine is currently recommended for both girls and boys at age 11 or 12 and is given over the course of six months. However, many parents choose not to vaccinate their children, citing a lack of sexual activity, among other reasons.
“Parents need reassurance that the HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 because it should be given well in advance of any sexual activity,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden has said in the past. “We don’t wait for exposure to occur before we vaccinate with any other routinely recommended vaccine.”
Frieden also said that health care providers are not doing enough to promote vaccination and that physicians should recommend this vaccine just as they recommend others.
Nearly 26,200 HPV-related cancers occur in the United States every year, affecting both sexes, according to the CDC. Cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancer account for the most prevalent HPV-related cancers in females and males, respectively. The HPV vaccine protects against the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancers.
The CDC is disappointed with the low number of girls getting vaccinated, as well as the relatively small percentage of girls who are completing the recommended three doses.
“Finishing the series is critical,” said Patsy Stinchfield, director of Infectious Disease and Immunology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “This vaccine is not fully effective unless you complete all three doses.”