Although overall vaccine coverage among adolescents ages 13-17 is increasing at a healthy rate, the growth in the number of teens being vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is badly lagging behind increases among those vaccinated against pertussis and meningococcal disease, according to the CDC.
The agency's Aug. 25 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(www.cdc.gov) quotes data from the 2010 National Immunization Survey-Teen that show the increase in the number of teens in this age group who received the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and those who received the meningococcal conjugate vaccine was more than or nearly double the increase seen in the number of girls ages 13-17 who received the complete three-dose series of HPV vaccine.
Although the percentage of adolescent girls ages 13-17 who were vaccinated with one or more doses of HPV vaccine came in at 49 percent -- versus 69 percent of all teens in this age group who received Tdap vaccine and 63 percent of all teens in this age group who received meningococcal conjugate vaccine -- only 32 percent of girls ages 13-17 reported getting the entire three-dose series of HPV vaccine recommended by the AAFP(5 page PDF) and the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
In addition, three-dose HPV vaccine coverage lagged for blacks and Hispanics compared with whites, and girls living in poverty also were less likely to complete the HPV vaccine series.
Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a CDC news release(www.cdc.gov) that she is encouraged by the overall vaccination numbers, but she's concerned about the HPV vaccination results.
"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," she said. "Now that we have the tools to prevent most cervical cancers, it is critical that we use them."
In July, a study in Pediatrics suggested that the HPV vaccine is responsible for a marked downturn in the number of HPV infection cases reported both among those immunized against the virus and those who are not so protected. Still, CDC figures indicate that each year, roughly 6 million people become infected with HPV and about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Schuchat asked that physicians and other health care professionals continue their efforts to ensure teenage patients are up-to-date on vaccinations during every office visit. The Vaccines for Children(www.cdc.gov) program provides free vaccines to uninsured children and teens younger than 19.