The number of adolescents who are up to date on HPV vaccination – meaning they started and completed the HPV vaccine series – increased five percentage points from 2016 to 2017, according to results from a national survey published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
In 2017, nearly 66 percent of adolescents aged 13-17 years received the first dose to start the vaccine series, and nearly 49 percent of adolescents received all the recommended doses to complete the series.
“This vaccine is the best way to protect our youth from developing cancers caused by HPV infection,” said CDC director Robert R. Redfield, MD. “Vaccination is the key to cervical cancer elimination. I’m pleased to see parents are taking advantage of this crucial public health tool and thank the clinicians who are working to ensure all children are protected from these cancers in the future.”
While HPV vaccination rates are increasing, there is room for improvement as many adolescents have not received all the recommended doses of the HPV and meningococcal conjugate vaccines. One of the new reports show that 51 percent of adolescents have not completed the HPV vaccine series, and 56 percent of adolescents have not received both doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
Also, fewer adolescents in rural areas, compared with youth in urban areas, are getting the HPV and meningococcal conjugate vaccines. The number of adolescents who received the first dose of the HPV vaccine was 11 percentage points lower in rural areas compared to urban areas. The number of adolescents receiving the first dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine was 7 percentage points lower in rural areas compared to urban areas.
“While we understand it can be a challenge for some clinicians in rural areas to stock all recommended vaccines, these clinicians can still play a critical role in their patients’ health and protect them from serious diseases by referring them to other vaccine providers,” said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
In addition to a yearly flu vaccine, CDC recommends three vaccines for all preteen boys and girls:
• meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis;
• HPV vaccine to protect against HPV cancers; and
• Tdap booster to protect against whooping cough.
Another report released in today’s MMWR found that oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the throat) is the most common HPV-associated cancer in the United States. Between 1999 and 2015, rates of oropharyngeal cancer increased in both men and women, but more in men. The report also found that in 2015, roughly 43,000 men and women developed an HPV-associated cancer (cancer in the part of the body where HPV is often found). Additional analyses estimate that HPV causes 79 percent, or about 33,700 cases, of these cancers every year.
Fortunately, HPV vaccination could prevent 90 percent or 31,200 cases of cancers caused by HPV from developing in the United States each year. Since the HPV vaccine was introduced more than 10 years ago, HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have decreased significantly. Because of the long interval between HPV infection and the development of cancer, it will likely take decades to assess the impact of vaccination on HPV-associated cancers.
The two reports help remind parents and clinicians to ensure preteens are protected against cancers caused by HPV, whooping cough and meningitis. Clinicians and parents should also ensure teens get a booster dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine at age 16.