More Teens Getting HPV Vaccinations, But Too Many Are Not, CDC Reports

Research has increasingly shown that the human papillomavirus, or HPV, contributes to the development of certain types of cancer, prompting health officials to urge parents to get their teens vaccinated.

In a new update on this campaign against HPV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that six out of 10 U.S. parents are choosing to get their kids vaccinated. The CDC recommends children get two doses of the HPV vaccine beginning at age 11 or 12 to protect against cancers caused by HPV infections. Although most children are getting their first dose of the HPV vaccine, many are not completing the vaccination series, the CDC said.

The 60 percent HPV vaccination rate represents progress, but still falls short, according to public health officials and physicians. Health officials attribute the rising vaccination rate to outreach campaigns by doctors and local governments to spread the word about the relatively new vaccine, which first became available to the public in 2006.

“I’m pleased with the progress, but too many teens are still not receiving the HPV vaccine – which leaves them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infection,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “We need to do more to increase the vaccination rate and protect American youth today from future cancers tomorrow.”

HPV-related cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, the CDC says. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). HPV cancer normally does not have symptoms until it is advanced and difficult to treat.

Adolescents who get the first dose of the HPV vaccine before their 15th birthday need two doses of it to be protected against cancers caused by HPV, the CDC states. Teens and young adults who start the series at ages 15 through 26 years need three doses of the HPV vaccine to be protected against cancers caused by HPV.

“HPV and the cancers it can cause are a significant public health concern,” says Jose S. Soza, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “But awareness and taking proper preventive steps can reduce individuals’ risks now and in the future. We’re hopeful that the steps we’re implementing today will lead to a tangible reduction in the number of cases of HPV-related cancers in the decades ahead.”

In its report, the CDC found that 60 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 received one or more doses of HPV vaccine in 2016, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2015. HPV vaccination is becoming more common among boys. About 65 percent of girls received the first dose of HPV vaccine, compared to 56 percent of boys receiving the first dose. These rates represent a 6 percentage point increase from 2015 for boys, while rates for girls were similar to 2015.

While most adolescents have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine, only 43 percent of teens are up to date on all the recommended doses of the HPV vaccine, the CDC states.

In late 2016, the CDC updated its HPV vaccine recommendations, urging parents to have their children, 11 to 12 year olds, get two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart. The guidance was modified after public health officials found that two doses of the HPV vaccine in younger adolescents provided levels of protection similar to those seen with three doses in older adolescents and young adults. Parents can take advantage of any visit to the doctor’s office to get the HPV vaccine for their child.

Dr. Soza recommends his patients follow these vaccination schedules to prevent some of the high-risk strains of HPV that have been shown to develop into certain types of cancer.

The CDC guidelines recommend:

  • Routine HPV vaccination beginning at age 11 or 12 years for both boys and girls.
  • Before the age of 15, the recommended immunization is two doses, administered 6 to 12 months apart.
  • After age 15, the CDC recommends three doses of the HPV vaccine, with the second dose administered 1 to 2 months after the first dose, and the third dose given 6 months after the first dose.

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