HPV vaccines work, but too few kids get these shots

Aug. 14, 2014—The vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent several types of cancer. But while health experts recommend the shots for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, the number of adolescents who are getting vaccinated is too low, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.

About the study

To review vaccination rates, CDC analyzed data from a telephone survey of parents and guardians of youths 13 to 17. Officials confirmed the data parents reported by checking with the doctors who took care of the adolescents. More than 18,000 teens were included in the analysis.

Although more adolescents in 2013 had received the HPV shots than in 2012, experts concluded that vaccination numbers are still much too low: About 57 percent of girls and 35 percent of boys had been given an HPV vaccination as of 2013.

If 11- and 12-year-olds were given the HPV vaccine when they got other preteen vaccines, more than 91 percent of preteen girls would have received protection from HPV, the CDC estimated.

When asked why their child did not get an HPV vaccine, about 30 percent of parents said that they didn’t know the protection was available or they didn’t think the shots were necessary. Concerns about safety may have also played a role, although the researchers pointed out that evidence from multiple studies suggests the treatment is safe.

You can dig into the statistics and find out more about the vaccine by reading the CDC report here.

The take-home message
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s so common, in fact, that almost every person who is sexually active will have it at some point.

It might seem unusual to vaccinate young people for a problem they might not experience until they’re older, but teens’ immune systems react best to the shots when they’re given at age 11 to 12, experts say. Starting shots this early is a good idea for other reasons too: The risk of developing HPV begins to increase at age 13.

Your child can get the HPV vaccine during an appointment for other preteen shots, and it’s something your doctor is likely to bring up during your teen’s visit. If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine, be sure to discuss those with your doctor. And if your child’s physician doesn’t discuss the shots, don’t be afraid to ask.

To find out more about the vaccines your child might need, click here.


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