Human papillomavirus is a virus that is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine can prevent 70 percent of those.
A new study by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers indicates that only about half of the girls ages 11-12, the age recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, receive the vaccine.
Why the lack of acceptance? HPV is a common virus, most people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have visible genital warts at any point in time and those are caused by HPV. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from it.
HPV is responsible for 99.7 percent of cervical cancers and several other cancers and the HPV vaccine protects against 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that girls get the vaccine when they are 11 to 12, because it is most effective when it is given before girls become sexually active.
A new study indicated that, among those who were vaccinated, only 14 percent of girls began the three-dose vaccine series at the CDC's recommended age of 11 to 12 in 2008. By 2012, this proportion rose to 56 percent. However, this means that almost half of the surveyed teenage girls still received the vaccine older than 12. Researchers are not certain how effective the vaccine is when it is given after this age. The trends did not differ by race/ethnicity.
Why not? Reasons are complex. These are overwhelmingly families that have given their children vaccines for measles, mumps, etc. so they are not "anti-vaccine". Surveys have found that people have become convinced by media stories that pharmaceutical companies do not test enough and that the FDA approves drugs too quickly. Media articles claiming that drug companies are paying to get into journals make it seem like the research is tainted. Some families do not like the idea that they are 'sexualizing' girls as young as age 9 for a rare cancer that is only prevented 70 percent of the time by the vaccine.
Demonizing skeptics is not going to help anything so these are issues that will need to be addressed.
The team analyzed data from the annual National Immunization Survey of Teens conducted by the CDC. The CDC data tracked information from 2008 to 2012 on girls' ages when the vaccine series was started and completed.
"Rates of HPV infection increase significantly every year for young people between 14 and 24, so vaccination at a young age is very important," said Mahbubur Rahman, associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "It's important that parents and health care providers are aware of the importance of early HPV vaccination to ensure that girls receive this vaccination at the CDC's recommended age."
Published in Vaccine.