Only a third of American teenage girls 13 to 17 were fully vaccinated against human papillomavirus virus (HPV) in 2012, a figure that declined somewhat in comparison with 2011, The New York Times reports. HPV is a main cause of cervical cancer and contributes to throat and other cancers as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised a clarion call that the vaccine against HPV is “safe, effective and grossly underutilized.”
The U.S. ranks near to last among developed nations in adopting the three-dose vaccine, which the CDC first recommended in 2007 that girls should receive at age 11 or 12. A subsequent recommendation for boys to receive the vaccination at the same age followed in 2011.
Through the 2012 National Immunization Survey-Teen (NIS-Teen), the CDC discovered that 84 percent of girls who hadn’t been vaccinated for HPV had still visited the doctor for another vaccine. If those girls had received a dose of HPV vaccine at the same time, the prevalence of girls receiving at least one dose of the vaccine would increase from the current 54 percent to nearly 93 percent.
Part of the problem appears to lie with the fact that doctors are failing to recommend the vaccine. Another factor is lack of understanding on the part of caregivers as to why girls need to receive the vaccine so young.
“Parents need reassurance that HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 because it should be given well in advance of any sexual activity,” CDC director Tom Frieden MD, MPH, said in a press conference. “We don’t wait for exposure to occur before we vaccinate with any other routinely recommended vaccine.”
The CDC projects that each year during which the prevalence of American girls who have received all three doses of the HPV vaccine remains at just 33 percent, as opposed to the 80 percent target, will result in another 4,400 developing cervical cancer and an additional 1,400 dying of cervical cancer.
While in the past, parents have been inclined to express concern that such a vaccine would encourage sexual activity among their children, this objection seems to have dissipated to an extent. Also, with many private insurers reimbursing for the vaccine and with a federal initiative to cover the procedure for the uninsured, cost is less of a barrier