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ATLANTA — Increases in vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus are trailing increases in rates for two other vaccines recommended for teens and preteens, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.
Coverage rates for the other two vaccines — Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; and MenACWY, which protects against meningococcal meningitis — are continuing to increase, but vaccination rates for HPV vaccine remain low, the study found.
“More U.S. teens are being protected against these serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases,” stated Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “However, the HPV results are very concerning. Our progress is stagnating, and if we don’t make major changes, far too many girls in this generation will remain vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life.”
About 6 million people become infected with HPV each year, and the CDC reported that every year, about 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. The CDC recommends HPV vaccine for girls ages 11 to 12 years to protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, and also recommends teenage girls who have not yet been vaccinated with HPV vaccine complete the vaccination series. HPV vaccines are given in three doses (as shots) over six months. To ensure the highest level of protection, girls must complete all three shots.
According to the CDC "NIS-Teen" survey, coverage for the three routine teen vaccines was 49% for one dose of HPV vaccine, 63% for MenACWY and 69% for Tdap vaccine. Hispanics had higher coverage for one dose of MenACWY and HPV, but third-dose HPV coverage lagged for blacks and Hispanics compared with whites. Girls living in poverty also were less likely to complete the entire HPV series.
Continued improvements in MenACWY and Tdap remain important, the CDC stated. “This one-time dose of Tdap can prevent pertussis infection,” Schuchat said. “Also, preteens and teens who get vaccinated with MenACWY are protecting themselves from an infection that can lead to lifelong disability — or, in some cases, death in 48 hours or less.”
Families who may need help paying for vaccines should ask their healthcare providers about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines at no cost to uninsured children younger than 19 years, the CDC noted. For help in finding a local healthcare provider who participates in the program, parents can call 800-CDC-INFO or go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.