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HPV Vaccination Rates Continue to Lag Among Adolescents, Especially Girls

Jaime Rosenberg
Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of adolescents who were up-to-date on the vaccine series increased from 48.6% to 51.1%, which was attributed to an increase among boys only.
It’s been more than a decade since the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was introduced, yet new data from the CDC have revealed that in 2018, just a little over half (51.1%) of adolescents were up-to-date on the vaccine series.

This was just a slight increase from 2017 (48.5% vs 51.1%), which was attributable to an increase among boys only, with almost no increase seen in girls.

The data highlight a disappointing trend of sluggish uptake of the vaccine, which was introduced 13 years ago. Every year, there are an estimated 34,800 cases of cancer as a result of HPV. The vaccine prevents the most dangerous strains of HPV that cause nearly 70% of cervical cancer, making the lack of an increase in vaccinations among girls especially concerning.

It’s recommended that people get 3 doses of the vaccine, and with most of the focus being on getting people to start the vaccine, it’s not surprising that the data showed 68.1% of adolescents received at least 1 vaccine in 2018.

With rates dropping off after the first vaccine, the availability of a single-dose HPV vaccine might provide a way to fully protect more people against the virus. A recent study found that a single dose of the vaccine given to women at a young age lowered their risk of precancerous lesions detected at a future cervical cancer screening by 35% compared with 41% when receiving all 3 doses.

Provider recommendation of the vaccine may also increase vaccination rates, with previous research showing that the most common reason for parents not getting their sons vaccinated is that their family doctor didn’t recommend it.

According to the CDC data, which were based on the 2018 National Immunization Survey–Teen responses of nearly 19,000 adolescents aged between 13 and 17 years, 77.5% of parents received a recommendation for their child to get vaccinated. This prevalence varied from state to state, ranging from 59.5% in Mississippi to 90.7% in Massachusetts.

“The provider recommendation continues to be a strong predictor of HPV vaccination,” wrote the researchers. “However, even when a provider recommendation was given, only 75% accepted the vaccine, suggesting that there are other reasons adolescents are not being vaccinated.”

“Equipping providers with the tools they need to give strong recommendations that emphasize the importance of HPV vaccination in preventing cancer and effectively address parental concerns is a priority, especially in states where provider recommendations were less commonly reported,” they added.

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