Infectious Disease Roundup Series – Week 1

Younger Adolescents Not Getting HPV Vaccine

Despite national recommendations that all children in the United States receive vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) at age 11 or 12, only about 16 percent of adolescents are fully vaccinated against the disease by age 13, according to new research published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. A press release distributed Jan. 17 claims new findings highlight the need for stronger efforts to encourage HPV vaccination and to improve immunization rates among this population.

“Providers need to be aware that, while we have seen gains in HPV vaccination coverage, we are still falling behind at the younger ages,” said Robert A. Bednarczyk, PhD, of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “In general, we need to do a better job of recommending the HPV vaccine at the routine, adolescent, and well-child visits, with a particular focus on 11-12 years of age.”

Nearly 80 million people in the U.S. are currently infected with some type of HPV, and HPV causes approximately 34,000 cancers, including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women; penile cancer in men; and mouth, throat, and anal cancer in women and men, per year, according to the recent report. The most recent version of the vaccine protects against seven of the most common types of HPV that cause cancer.

For the study, researchers analyzed 2016 data from a nationwide survey of parents conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes vaccination information verified by providers. Overall, an estimated 43.4 percent of kids ages 13-17 were fully vaccinated. But only 15.8 percent of adolescents had received all recommended HPV vaccine doses by their 13th birthday, the analysis found. Among older teens, an estimated 34.8 percent were up-to-date on their HPV vaccination by the time they turned 15.

The new analysis also found that adolescents with more than one healthcare provider were not as likely to be up to date on their HPV vaccination by age 13 or 15. These results highlight the need for good record keeping, effective use of state immunization information systems, and increased provider awareness to make sure these patients are not overlooked when considering vaccination opportunities, according to Bednarczyk.

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