It appears only about one in three young women have received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer, according to a new report from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center.
The findings are published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The HPV vaccine prevents four strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, two of which are found in about 70 percent of all women with cervical cancer. Both the American Cancer Society and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that women and girls receive the vaccine, but the new data show that only 34 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 were vaccinated in the six states surveyed—Delaware, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.
First author Sandi Pruitt, PhD, and senior investigator Mario Schootman, PhD, analyzed data on 1,709 girls from a national telephone survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
More than 70 percent of the girls were white, and almost 75 percent had health insurance. Girls living in poorer states were less likely to get the vaccine, but the researchers did not find racial disparities in vaccination rates. “That’s very important,” says Pruitt, “because the highest burden of cervical cancer is among women of color, especially Hispanic women and those who live along the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s a huge epidemic of cervical cancer among those women.”
The HPV vaccine is now approved for both boys and girls beginning at age 11 to 12. It also can be given to adolescents and young adults as old as 26.