HPV Vaccination Still Not Where it Needs To Be
Sep 25, 2012

This morning I was reminded of the importance of  human papillomavirus vaccination after reading an article that appeared yesterday in Ob.Gyn. News.  As the parent of five daughters, and the friend of several people who have had various health complications as a result of HPV, I’m disappointed that there is a safe and effective vaccine that is currently underutilized at this point in time.  Data released as part of the CDC’s National and State Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years revealed that only 23% of 13-year-old girls in the U.S. had completed the recommended three-dose HPV series.  Additionally, as of 2011, only about 35% of all 13-17  year-old girls had completed the series.
If you are a parent that has yet to begin your child on the 3 dose HPV vaccination series, you may want to consider these tidbits of information that were included in the Ob.Gyn. News article:

  • Three-quarters of the general population become infected with HPV, and three-quarters of those infections occur at 15-24 years of age.
  • More than 50% of those who become infected with HPV do so within 2 years after becoming sexually active.
  • Studies show that more than 20% of males and females have already had vaginal sex by age 15.
  • One-third of all HPV-related cancers occur in men which is why the CDC recommended vaccination for 11-12 year old boys, as well as 11-12 year old girls.
  • Protecting boys will secondarily increase protection against cervical cancer in girls.

The article also discusses how vaccination can reduce the cost burden of this disease and references other interesting considerations regarding HPV and the vaccine to prevent it.  But what I found most interesting were the statistics that have come out of Australia, the first country to fund a HPV vaccination program for all females aged 12-26 years.
After the first two years of the Australian program, which began in July of 2007,  a national surveillance program had identified a 59% reduction in new diagnoses of genital warts among women in Australia.  There was also a 39% drop in new cases among heterosexual Australian males aged 12-26.  Even though they weren’t included in the vaccine program, the rate drop among men seems to suggest evidence of herd immunity, especially since they can be compared among the unchanged rates among men who have sex with other men.  In a subsequent report with updated data through mid-2011, Australian investigators credited “the dramatic decline and near disappearance” of genital warts in women and heterosexual men under age 21 year, to be a result of the national HPV vaccination program that had been initiated just four years prior.
This is just one example of what can be accomplished here in the United States if we work to improve HPV vaccination rates.  There are obviously some challenges we face, but when I think of my friend and fellow Shot@Life immunization champion, I’m committed to finding a way to educate parents and encourage vaccination.   Here is her story and her message to parents everywhere.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges we face in improving HPV vaccination rates?

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