Health and Fitness

HPV Vaccination Rates Rising Among U.S. Teens

Still, more awareness and better education regarding the vaccine has contributed to the increase in vaccination rates, Bailey said.

But vaccination rates are not even across the country. Fewer teenagers in rural areas, compared with youth in urban areas, are getting the HPV vaccine, the CDC said.

The number of adolescents who received the first dose of the HPV vaccine was 11 percentage points lower in rural areas compared to urban areas, the researchers found.

The vaccine has been available now since 2006. “That’s 12 years, and we’re still struggling. People don’t think they’re going to get cancer. That’s the problem,” said Dr. Larry Copeland, a gynecologic oncologist with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

To get vaccination rates higher, doctors will need to come up with ways to counter parents’ concerns, said Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Many people have a very warped idea of vaccines in general,” Horovitz said. “This one, especially, because it’s tied in their minds perhaps to permission to engage in sexual activity, is all the more vexing.”

Copeland said he frequently asks younger cervical cancer patients why they didn’t get the vaccine.

“I get a variety of answers. The most common probably is, well, Doctor, it wasn’t recommended to me. I wasn’t told to get it,” Copeland said. “Clinicians are dropping the ball.”

The second report also found that oropharyngeal cancer — cancer of the back of the throat — is the most common HPV-associated cancer in the United States.

Between 1999 and 2015, rates of oropharyngeal cancer increased in both men and women, about 2.7 percent per year in men and 0.8 percent per year in women.

The report also found that in 2015, roughly 43,000 men and women developed an HPV-associated cancer, or a cancer in the part of the body where HPV is often found. HPV causes 79 percent, or about 33,700 cases, of these cancers every year, the CDC says.

HPV vaccination could prevent 90 percent or 31,200 cases of cancers caused by HPV from developing in the United States each year, the CDC report concluded.

The two new studies appear in the Aug. 24 issue of the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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