HPV vaccination rates increasing in U.S., but still fall short of goals

Rates of vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) are on the rise among children in the U.S., but still fall short of national goals, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published online September 14, 2020 in the journal Pediatrics. Harvard Chan School co-authors included research fellow Szu-Ta Chen and Sonia Hernández-Díaz, professor of epidemiology.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys starting at age 11 to prevent HPV infection, which is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and can also lead to cancers of the vagina, penis, anus, or throat.

The study looked at health insurance records for more than 7.8 million U.S. children from 2003 to 2017. The researchers found that, by 2017, more than half of 15-year-olds had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine (two are required)—a significant gain from 2011, when 38% of girls and only 5% of boys had been vaccinated. But the national goal is for 80% of young people to receive the vaccine.

Researchers also found that vaccination uptake varies by state.

Experts quoted in a September 14 U.S. News & World Report article said that low uptake rates may be due to people’s concerns about the safety of the vaccine, or to their underestimation of the risk of HPV, even though it’s the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Read the U.S. News & World Report article: HPV Vaccination Rises Among U.S. Kids, But Many Still Unprotected

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