Survey: About One-Third of U.S. Girls Getting the Cervical Cancer Vaccine (dateline November 30, 2009)
About 37 percent of pre-teen girls are receiving at least one does of the cervical cancer vaccine, according to a survey published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, that percentage drops to 18 percent among girls who received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. Moreover, the survey found that rates vary markedly by state. The cervical cancer vaccine, called Gardisil, was approved by the U.S. government in 2006 to help prevent forms of the disease caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease. The CDC notes that while vaccinations rates for teens is increasing but more progress is needed.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted disease that affects both men and women. There are over 80 different strains of HPV, and the most do not pose any health risks. However, some of the strains of HPV cause genital warts in men and women and can cause cellular changes that may lead to cervical cancer in women. A major risk factor for cervical cancer is the HPV. It is estimated that one million new cases of HPV occur each year, and 20% to 40% of sexually active women have HPV.
Three years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of the vaccine Gardisil to prevent cervical cancer. The vaccine does not prevent all forms of cervical cancer, and thus it is important for women to receive regular Pap tests to screen for the disease. However, the vaccine has been shown to prevent certain types caused by HPV.
Gardasil is approved for use in females 9-26 years of age. However, the vaccine is most effective if administered before an individual becomes sexually active. Therefore, experts recommend that girls start getting it at age 11 or 12. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is also recommended for 13-26 year-old girls/women who have not yet received or completed the vaccine series.
In an effort to capture vaccination rates among U.S. teens, the National Immunization Survey (NIS) gathered information on the proportion of teens aged 13 through 17 years who have received six recommended vaccines by the time they are surveyed. Three of these are recommended to be given at age 11 or 12 years: the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap), the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), and, for girls, the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4). If missed at this age, the vaccines can be given in the teen years. The survey also covers three other vaccines, which are recommended to be given earlier in life: measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), hepatitis B vaccine (HepB), and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. According to the CDC, preteens and teens should get all recommended doses of these vaccines if they missed them when they were younger. All doses are counted, no matter when they were received.
The survey found that, compared to 2007, there was a substantial increase in the percentage of teens who had received the recommended vaccines. Specifically:
- Coverage went up about 10 percentage points for a dose of Tdap and a dose of MCV4, reaching about 40 percent for each vaccine.
- Coverage went up about 12 percentage points for girls who received at least one dose of HPV4, to about 37 percent, and coverage for the recommended 3 doses of HPV4 was about 18 percent.
- Fifteen percent more teens without a history of varicella received the recommended two doses of varicella vaccine, but coverage is only about 34 percent. Coverage rose about 6 percent for one dose of varicella vaccine, to about 82 percent.
- For the first time, Healthy People 2010 Goals of 90 percent coverage for 13- through 15-year-olds were met for the recommended two doses of MMR and three doses of HepB.
- Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had greater than 50 percent coverage for one or more of the vaccines recommended at age 11 or 12. In other states, coverage was lower.
- Differences were observed among racial/ethnic groups and by poverty status, including higher coverage for HPV4 among Hispanic females compared with whites, and higher coverage among teens living in poverty compared with those living at or above the poverty level. Blacks had lower coverage than whites for Tdap, and fewer were protected from varicella.
"Vaccination coverage for teens is moving up, but much work remains," said Melinda Wharton, M.D., Deputy Director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a CDC news release. "We have the most room for improvement for the vaccines that are recommended at 11 or 12 years of age, and for making sure that teens who are not immune to chickenpox receive the vaccine as recommended," Dr. Wharton said.
The survey found vaccination rates varies by U.S. state as well as by race and socioeconomic state. The CDC also notes that adding recommended vaccines for pre-teens has been difficult because this group previously did not have recommended vaccines. Thus, the CDC recommends that parents talk with their child's healthcare provider to find out when to come in for recommended check-ups. "That way, we can be sure preteens and teens receive not only recommended vaccinations but other very important preventive services, too," said Dr. Wharton, in the CDC news release.
- The September 17, 2009 news release, "Nation's Teen Vaccination Coverage Increasing, Variability Observed by Area, Race/Ethnicity, and Poverty Status," was issued by the CDC and published on its web site, http://www.cdc.gov/. The CDC has also published on its web site the 2008 national immunization survey data referenced in this article.
- To learn more about the cervical cancer vaccine, please visit http://www.imaginis.com/cervical-cancer/vaccine.asp
- To learn more about cervical cancer, please visit http://www.imaginis.com/cervical-cancer/