More teens still need the HPV vaccine

Immunization rates have increased among boys and girls

Good news in the fight against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV): The vaccination rate for this disease has risen 5 points from 2016 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Yet, only 66 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have received the first dose, and only 49 percent have received the doses required to be fully immunized.

The vaccine is effective in preventing 90 percent of cancers caused by HPV, including cervical, anal, oral, vaginal and penile. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people in the U.S. — about one in four — currently are infected. According to the CDC, about 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.

“When it was first introduced, the vaccine was targeted toward girls,” said Paige Hertweck, M.D., pediatric and adolescent gynecologist with Norton Children’s Gynecology. “Since that time, there has been a decrease in HPV-related infections and cervical precancerous lesions.

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“It’s incredibly important for parents to make sure their children receive this vaccine.”

The vaccine also is recommended for boys since the virus is transmitted primarily through sexual contact.

“Early vaccination is advantageous,” Dr. Hertweck said. “Children ages 11 or 12 should get two shots of the vaccine six to 12 months apart. If older than 14, three shots are needed over six months.”