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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Vaccines for Teens: Still Room for Improvement

Rates of HPV Shots Among Teens Lag Behind Other Recommended Vaccines

Bad News: Too Many Girls Not Getting HPV Shots continued...

Why are rates of HPV trailing behind other teen vaccines?

Parents may not be aware of the HPV vaccine and what it does. They also may not be getting a strong enough recommendation from their daughter’s pediatrician, Wharton says.

Also, HPV is given as three shots. “It is harder to get three doses in than one,” Wharton says.

Some parents may have questions about their 11- or 12-year-old daughters getting a shot that prevents a sexually transmitted disease. But “this is a preventive vaccine, not a therapeutic one, and it won’t work unless given prior to onset of sexual activity,” Wharton says.

There was some pushback from parents in the early days of the vaccine because of potential side effects, but this vaccine is safe, Wharton says.

Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, is also disheartened by the number of girls not getting HPV shots. “These rates are nothing short of tragic,” he says in a written statement. “We could be sparing an entire generation from HPV, which can lead to a range of STDs, cervical cancer, and other cancers.”

Boys may also get the HPV shot to prevent genital warts, but it's not part of the CDC's official vaccine recommendations. Just 1.4% of male teens got the HPV shot in 2010.

Teen Vaccine Rates Vary by State

Vaccine coverage rates also varied widely by states, the study showed.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia had the highest rates. More than 65% of teens got at least one dose of all three recommended teen vaccines in these states. These numbers still fall short of goals set by the government in its HealthyPeople 2020 campaign.

Overall, teen vaccine rates were lower for teens living in the Southeastern U.S. compared with other areas.

Teen vaccine rates based on the type of vaccine also varied by state -- sometimes by dozens of percentage points -- the study showed.

So why are some states doing so much better than others? School vaccination programs, reminders, and good communication between doctors and local public health officials may make a difference, the study suggests.

The CDC has tracked teen vaccine rates since 2006. The new findings appear in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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