July 26, 2013 —The rate of vaccination against human papillomavirus among teenage girls has stalled over the last two years, primarily because doctors have failed to recommend the vaccine to their patients, according to a CDC report published Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, USA Today reports.
CDC since 2006 has recommended that all girls ages 11 and older receive the full, three-dose vaccination, which protects against about 70% of HPV-related cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts (Weise/Hellmich, USA Today, 7/25). The same guidance was issued for boys in 2011. According to CDC, the virus causes about 19,000 cancers among women annually and about 8,000 among men (Tavernise, New York Times, 7/25).
Report: No Improvement in Uptake Between 2011 and 2012
For the report, researchers assessed data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen on 19,199 teenage girls ages 13 to 17 who had available vaccination records for 2007 to 2012 (Neale, "The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 7/25).
The researchers found that 53.8% of teenage girls received a single dose of the vaccine in 2012, an almost identical rate to the 53% who got the vaccine in 2011. In addition, the rate of teenage girls who received the full three-dose vaccination fell from 34.8% in 2011 to 33.4% in 2012 (Abutaleb, Reuters, 7/25). Previously, vaccination rates had increased significantly, jumping from 25.1% in 2007 to 53% in 2011 ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 7/25).
Parent Concerns, Lack of Doctor Recommendation Among Reasons Behind Stall
According to the report, the lack of a doctor's recommendation was one of the primary reasons for stagnant vaccination rates, the Times reports. CDC Director Thomas Frieden explained, "The doctor is the single most influential factor that determines whether kids get vaccinated" (New York Times, 7/25).
Other reasons for why girls are not receiving the vaccination include concerns about safety and that girls will become sexually active after vaccination, as well as a lack of knowledge among parents about the vaccine (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).
Frieden pointed out that multiple studies have demonstrated that girls who have received the vaccine do not initiate sex sooner than their unvaccinated peers, noting, "HPV vaccine does not open the door to sex. HPV vaccine closes the door to cancer" (USA Today, 7/25).
Further, the report also noted that one of the most common HPV vaccines -- Gardasil -- is an effective and safe drug, with only 21,194 total adverse events being reported. In addition, 92.1% of those events were categorized as nonserious, and the most common serious events usually involved headache, vomiting, or dizziness, among other symptoms ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 7/25).
The failure to increase vaccination rates "is a huge disappointment, but I am confident that we will turn it around," Frieden said (CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).