Increases in vaccination rates for human papillomavirus, or HPV, are trailing increases in rates for two other vaccines recommended for teens and preteens, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Coverage rates for the other two vaccines -- Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and MenACWY, which protects against meningococcal meningitis -- are continuing to increase, but vaccination rates for HPV vaccine remain low, the study found. HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer, but vaccination dramatically reduces this risk.
The study in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Aug. 26 drew on data from the 2010 National Immunization Survey-Teen.
"More U.S. teens are being protected against these serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "However, the HPV results are very concerning. Our progress is stagnating, and if we don't make major changes, far too many girls in this generation will remain vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life. Now that we have the tools to prevent most cervical cancers, it is critical that we use them."
About 6 million people become infected with HPV each year, and the CDC reports that every year about 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. The CDC recommends an HPV vaccine for 11- or 12-year-old girls to protect against the types of the virus that cause cervical cancer and also recommends teenage girls who have not yet been vaccinated complete the vaccination series.
HPV vaccines are given in three doses over six months. To ensure the highest level of protection, girls must complete all three shots.
The CDC NIS-Teen survey found:
Schuchat stressed that any visit to the doctor -- such as an annual health checkup or physicals for sports, camp or college -- can be a good time for preteens and teens to get the recommended vaccinations. By making sure all recommended vaccines are given at every opportunity, coverage for all the teen vaccines could increase substantially.
Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their health care provider about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines at no cost to uninsured children younger than 19. To find a local health care provider who participates in the program, call 800-CDC-INFO or go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.