HPV vaccine not reaching enough girls, CDC says

(If you're not yet a fan, join us now by clicking the Like button)

The very low vaccination rate for teenage girls against the human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection and a principal cause of cervical cancer — did not improve at all from 2011 to 2012, and health officials on Thursday said a survey found that doctors were often failing to bring it up or recommend it when girls came in for other reasons.

Only 33 percent of teenage girls had finished the required three doses of the vaccine in 2012, officials said, putting the United States close to the bottom of developed countries in coverage.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on a call with reporters that coverage for girls “has not increased at all from one year to the next. Zero.” Coverage rates for new vaccines typically increase by about 10 percentage points a year, he said.

Experts began recommending in 2007 that all girls be vaccinated at age 11 or 12, though the vaccine is approved for children as young as 9. The same guidance was issued for boys in 2011. The virus causes about 19,000 cancers in women every year, and 8,000 in men, according to the C.D.C. Women most commonly get cervical cancer as a result of the virus, while men are most likely to get throat cancer.

Officials had suspected that parents were not getting their children vaccinated because the girls were older and going to the doctor less frequently, making it inconvenient to get all three doses.

But the results of a survey showed that teenagers were going to the doctor and getting other vaccines, just not the one that inoculates against HPV. Parents often told researchers that their doctor did not mention the HPV vaccine. If teenage girls had gotten the HPV vaccine at the same time they got another vaccine, the coverage rate for at least one dose would be almost double what it actually is, Dr. Frieden said.

“The doctor is the single most influential factor that determines whether kids get vaccinated,” he said.

Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, exhorted doctors to urge parents to get their children vaccinated. He suggested sending reminders by text message and having nurses ask during visits if children had been immunized.

“Parents trust your opinion more than anyone else’s when it comes to immunizations,” Dr. McInerny said. “We have a powerful tool to prevent cancer. Let’s use it.”

Officials said that cost was not a major barrier, since many private insurers now covered the vaccine and a federal program made it free for those without insurance. Parents used to say that they worried getting the vaccine might give girls a green light for sex, but Dr. McInerny said that worry had become less common.

HPV vaccine not reaching enough girls, CDC says

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) & The New York Times

Comments are closed.