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Only About Half of Girls Receive HPV Vaccine at CDC’s Recommended Age

Vaccine protects against 70% of cervical cancers

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer, but a new study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has indicated that only about half of girls receive the vaccine at the recommended age to best protect themselves.

The findings were published in the journal Vaccine.

The HPV vaccine protects against 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that girls receive the vaccine when they are 11 to 12 years of age because it is most effective when it is given before girls become sexually active. The question is: how many girls actually receive the vaccine at the recommended age?

The new study indicates that, among those who were vaccinated, only 14% of girls began the three-dose vaccine series at the CDC’s recommended age of 11 to 12 years in 2008. By 2012, this proportion rose to 56%. However, this means that almost half of the surveyed girls still received the vaccine after the age of 12. The researchers were not certain how effective the vaccine is when it is given after this age. These trends did not differ by race or ethnicity.

The investigators analyzed data from the annual National Immunization Survey of Teens conducted by the CDC. These data tracked information from 2008 to 2012 on girls’ ages when the vaccine series was started and completed.

“Rates of HPV infection increase significantly every year for young people between 14 and 24, so vaccination at a young age is very important,” said lead author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman. “It's important that parents and health care providers are aware of the importance of early HPV vaccination to ensure that girls receive this vaccination at the CDC’s recommended age.”

Sources: EurekAlert; January 21, 2015; and Vaccine; December 9, 2014.

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