A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report (CDC) shows that many teenagers continue to go without vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease that can also lead to cancer.
HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, according to the CDC, can cause genital warts and, in some cases, cancer.
Although HPV vaccine is available and effective, it is still extremely underutilized in the U.S., according to CDC officials. Last year, only 57 percent of U.S. girls and 35 percent of U.S. boys ages 13 to 17 were vaccinated against the virus. Although on the rise from last year, the CDC says these numbers are still too low.
The HPV vaccine — which requires a series of three shots over six months — is a key way to protect against this virus. The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12, before sexual activity is likely to occur. HPV vaccination is also recommended for teenage boys and girls who did not get immunized against the disease when they were younger.
“For the HPV vaccine to work best, it’s important for preteens to get all three doses before sexual activity begins,” said Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director of Public Health Ira Singh. “It’s possible to be infected with HPV the very first time they have intimate contact with another person.”
All three doses should be given within a six month period, according to the CDC. The second and third doses should be given two and six months after the first.
Vaccination rates reflect the number of adolescents who received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. Three-dose coverage remained low, despite a slight increase from the previous year.
Not receiving a health care provider’s recommendation for HPV vaccine was one of the main reasons parents reported they did not vaccinate their children, according to National Immunization Survey Teen data.
“Pediatricians and family physicians are uniquely situated to prevent missed opportunities by giving HPV vaccine during the same visit they give Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) and meningococcal vaccines,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”
CDC officials encourage parents and caregivers to ask about age-appropriate vaccines every time they take their children for a health care visit.
“Getting immunized is the safest and most effective way that we can protect our children’s future,” Singh said. “Vaccinations provide the foundation for a healthy life throughout the adolescent years and beyond.”
HPV vaccines are available at DHHS’ Public Health Clinic — located at 529 I St. in Eureka — and from private health care providers. For more information, call the Public Health Clinic at 707-268-2108.
For more information about the HPV vaccine, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov.
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