The numbers of U.S. teens being given a vaccination against human papillomavirus vaccine is "unacceptably low" and the blame may lie partly with doctors, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

It appears doctors may be failing to recommend the vaccine, which can protect against the sexually-transmitted virus causing cervical, anal and many mouth and throat cancers, as strongly as they have been other vaccines, the CDC says.

Three injections of the HPV vaccine beginning at age 11 or 12, before teens become sexually active, are recommended.

In 2013 only 57 percent of girls and 35 percent of boys between ages 13 and 17 received even a single dose of the HPV vaccine, a CDC immunization survey found.

In comparison, more than 85 percent of U.S. teenagers received the Tdap vaccine meant to protect them from tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, officials said.

"We were disappointed with the overall findings," says Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "When a teen is in a doctor's office and receives another vaccine and not HPV, that's a missed opportunity."

Parents interviewed for the CDC's survey said not being given a recommendation by their children's doctors was the primary factor in their decision to forego a vaccination for their teens.

In addition, some parents have expressed concern the vaccine would encourage sexual activity, in spite of research indicating immunized teens are no more promiscuous that those skipping the vaccine.

Cost is not considered a factor in the low vaccination rate, since it is normally fully covered under health insurance, and there have been no reports of any significant side effects in the more than 60 million vaccination given so far.

Around 80 million people in America, mostly teens and young adults, have HPV infections and 14 million more become infected each year, the CDC say.

Data shows that the vaccine is effective; HPV infections linked to cervical cancer have dropped by more than half among teen girls in the United States after the 2006 introduction of the vaccine.

Since many school districts are not requiring an HPV vaccination for attendance, the real opportunity to improve vaccination rates lies with pediatricians, Schuchat says.

"We have very good coverage with the other vaccines and not all states require all of the vaccines, so the key, we think, is if they are in the doctor's office for something else and they have a chance to get vaccinated," she says.

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