Study indicates many girls don’t receive vaccine in recommended age range
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts cases. But a 2015 study showed only half of girls received the HPV vaccine at the recommended age.
The HPV vaccine is given in a three-part series and is recommended between the ages of 11 and 12. The study showed only 56 percent of girls received the vaccine in that age range in 2012.
Dr. Tori Asbury of Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine in Leland, North Carolina, attributes this percentage to a lack of awareness about the benefits of the vaccine.
“Education plays a big role in making sure parents understand the importance of the HPV vaccine,” Asbury said. “The vaccine can prevent cervical cancers and other HPV-related infections. If you can immunize children before they are exposed to those things, it’s effective.”
Asbury said while it’s often difficult for parents to think about the future sexual activity of their 11-year-old, it’s better to be proactive and protect a child from something preventable.
“I bring up the HPV vaccine at all 11-year-old well-child checks,” Asbury said. “I also offer the vaccine to older teens and young adults who have not been previously immunized.”
Asbury mentioned another component of the low vaccination rate may be due to the multiple-dose vaccine. “Getting children back into the office for the other additional doses of the vaccine is hard,” she said.
In October of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new recommendation that children under age 15 need only two doses of the HPV vaccine. Previously, preteens would receive three doses.
“I am hopeful that the reduced dosing schedule will improve compliance with the vaccine in this age group,” Asbury said.
This new recommendation does not apply to anyone who is vaccinated at age 15 or older. According to the CDC, those patients should still receive the HPV vaccine in a series of three shots over six months to protect against HPV infection and the health problems that the infection can cause. The vaccine offers the best protection to teenagers who receive the recommended series of doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active.
Updated on: 10/31/2016