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HPV Vaccination Rates Among Teens Still Lagging: CDC

Doctors need to suggest it when recommending other vaccines for teens, researchers say

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The fact that HPV is sexually transmitted shouldn't be a concern, she said. "The fact of the matter is this vaccine prevents cancers," she said.

"We don't have to get into a conversation about how pertussis is transmitted," she said. "We say what the vaccine is for and we make a recommendation, and if people have questions they can ask those questions. It is not necessary to get into long discussions about questions that people haven't even asked."

The report was published in the Aug. 30 edition of the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an ob/gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "some parents see HPV as a sexually transmitted disease and they are worried that it will encourage sexual activity, but I don't think most children are looking at HPV that way."

Another barrier to getting the HPV vaccine is the cost. "It's very expensive," Wu said. "But the cost of treating cervical cancer and genital warts can also be very expensive."

According to the American Cancer Society, the vaccine can cost about $130 per dose. When doctor's fees are added, the three shots could cost $500 or more. The vaccine, however, is covered by most health insurance plans and government programs.

The MenACWY vaccine also is important, the researchers added. It protects against meningococcal disease. Although not common, 16- to 21-year-olds have the highest rates of the bacterial infection, according to the CDC.

Meningococcal bacteria can lead to severe diseases, including meningitis and sepsis, resulting in permanent disabilities such as amputations, brain damage, hearing loss and blindness. The disease can even be fatal.

According to the report, the Tdap vaccination rate for teens increased from 78.2 percent in 2011 to 84.6 percent in 2012, while the MenACWY vaccination rate increased from 70.5 percent in 2011 to 74 percent in 2012.

For boys, the HPV vaccination rate went from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent in 2012; the recommendation for vaccinating boys is new, so coverage is expected to be low at first.

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