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HPV vaccination rate 'unacceptably low' among teenagers, warns CDC

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The Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. causing genital warts as well as certain forms of cancer such as cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancer. However, while there are vaccines available to prevent infection, health authorities raised concerns that the number of teenagers who get vaccinated against HPV remains low.

The HPV vaccine is most effective when it is given before an individual becomes sexually active, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the rates of vaccination among U.S. teenagers remain "unacceptably low."

In a statement released on Thursday, July 24, the federal health agency said that only 37.6 percent of girls between 13 and 17 years old got the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine. The figure is up from the 2012 rate of 33.4 percent but still way behind the goal of the CDC to achieve an 80 percent vaccination rate. Nearly 14 percent of adolescent boys, on the other hand, got vaccinated in 2013, up from the 2012 vaccination rate of 6.8 percent. The data were based on CDC's 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen (NIS-Teen), which was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on July 25.

Anne Schuchat, the director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that the high rate of children getting vaccinated for Tdap and other vaccines suggests that it is possible to reach the goal of giving at least 80 percent of the adolescents HPV vaccine. The agency estimate that if adolescent girls do not miss the opportunity to get themselves vaccinated against HPV before they reach 13 years old, 91 percent of the adolescent girls would be somehow protected from forms of cancer that are associated with HPV.

"It's frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year," Schuchat said. "Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow."

Shannon Stokley, from the Immunization Services Division of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and colleagues, who wrote the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said that one of the main reasons for the low vaccination rate is lack of recommendation for HPV vaccine from health service providers.

"It is concerning that approximately one third of parents of girls and over half of parents of boys reported that their child's clinician had not recommended that their child receive an HPV vaccination," the authors wrote. "The lack of a clinician recommendation among parents of boys might reflect knowledge limitations among clinicians because the recommendation for routine HPV vaccination for boys has only been in place since December 2011."

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