Six out of 10 U.S. parents are choosing to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for their children, according to a report published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends parents get two doses of HPV vaccine for their children at ages 11 or 12 to protect against cancers caused by HPV infections. Although most children are getting their first dose of HPV vaccine, many children are not completing the vaccination series.
“I'm pleased with the progress, but too many teens are still not receiving the HPV vaccine – which leaves them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infection,” said CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “We need to do more to increase the vaccination rate and protect American youth today from future cancers tomorrow.”
Adolescents who get the first dose of HPV vaccine before their 15th birthday need two doses of HPV vaccine to be protected against cancers caused by HPV. Teens and young adults who start the series at ages 15 through 26 years need three doses of HPV vaccine to be protected against cancers caused by HPV.
The annual National Immunization Survey-Teen (NIS-Teen) report, which examines vaccination coverage among U.S. adolescents, found that 60 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 received one or more doses of HPV vaccine in 2016, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2015.
The report also showed that HPV vaccination is becoming more common among boys. The difference in vaccination rates between boys and girls has been narrowing in recent years. About 65 percent of girls received the first dose of HPV vaccine compared to 56 percent of boys receiving the first dose. These latest estimates represent a 6 percentage point increase from 2015 for boys, while rates for girls were similar to 2015.
Despite these increases, areas for improvement remain. While most adolescents have received the first dose of HPV vaccine, only 43 percent of teens are up to date on all the recommended doses of HPV vaccine. HPV vaccination rates were also lower in rural and less urban areas compared to more urban areas.
Clinicians have been working hard to protect children from cancers caused by HPV ever since the vaccine was first introduced over 10 years ago, and there are reasons to be encouraged about future trends in HPV vaccination.
In late 2016, CDC updated its HPV vaccine recommendations as new evidence showed that two doses of HPV vaccine in younger adolescents provided levels of protection similar to those seen for three doses in older adolescents and young adults. CDC recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart.
“Recent changes to the vaccine recommendations mean preventing cancer is easier now than ever before,” said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Now is the time for parents to protect their children from cancers caused by HPV.”
Recent data have also shown that HPV vaccination has led to dramatic declines in HPV infections, highlighting the importance of achieving and maintaining high HPV vaccination rates. Since the introduction of the first HPV vaccine, infections with HPV types that cause most of these cancers and genital warts have decreased by 71 percent in teen girls and 61 percent in young women.
Parents can take advantage of any visit to the doctor’s office to get the HPV vaccine for their child. Adolescents should get the HPV vaccine during the same visit they get whooping cough and meningitis vaccines.