25% of Teen Girls Vaccinated for HPV

THURSDAY Oct. 9, 2008 -- About 25 percent of girls aged 11 to 17 have gotten the human papillomavirus vaccine known as Gardasil, which protects against cervical cancer, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

"This is very good for a first year measurement of a new vaccine," Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the Division of Immunization Services at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a noon teleconference. "It usually takes six to nine years to achieve the desired 90 percent coverage."

Rodewald noted that because the survey covers only young teens, many more young women have probably received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The vaccine has been very well-tolerated, and its protection, especially when given at a younger age, is expected to last at least six years, he noted. Whether a booster shot will be needed isn't known yet.

The hope for the vaccine is that it will reduce the almost 4,000 cervical cancer deaths each year in the United States. Barriers to getting the vaccine include cost, which is about $375, although it is covered under many health insurance plans.

In September, fainting, a side effect associated with the HPV vaccine, resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's requiring that vaccine manufacturer Merck & Co. add a warning to the vaccine's package insert, advising doctors to watch patients for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to be sure they don't faint.

This is the second year the Annual National Immunization Survey for Teens has been done among children in this age group, Rodewald noted. In the survey, researchers collected data on about 3,000 teens whose vaccinations were verified by their doctors.

The results of the survey are published in the Oct. 10 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"In 2005 and 2006, [the] CDC's advisory committee on immunization practices recommended three new vaccines to protect preteens and teens from infectious diseases that were not previously preventable in this age group," Rodewald said. "All three of these vaccines have the potential to prevent a substantial burden of disease."

These new vaccines included pertussis (whooping cough), invasive meningococcal disease, and the HPV vaccine, Rodewald said. "Although whooping cough is preventable among young children, we have seen increases of the disease in teens and young adults. There are about 20,000 cases a year in the United States among teens. The Tdap vaccine is the first vaccine to protect this age group from pertussis," he said.

Vaccines recommended for 11- to 12-year-olds include the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), and the human papillomavirus (HPV4) vaccine for girls and young women.

In addition, the estimate of vaccine coverage includes the percentage of teens aged 13 to 17 who should have received vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine, and varicella vaccine (VAR).

Compared with 2006, vaccine coverage substantially increased:

  • More than 80 percent of teens had been vaccinated with HepB and MMR vaccines.
  • Vaccine coverage for one dose of VAR was 75.7 percent, but two doses was only 18.8 among preteens and teens.
  • MCV4 coverage rose from 11.7 percent in 2006 to 32.4 percent of preteens and teens in 2007.
  • Tdap coverage rose from 10.8 percent in 2006 to 30.4 percent in 2007.
  • Among adolescent girls, 2.5 million had received at least one dose of HPV vaccine.

While rates are improving, they are still far below the Healthy People 2010 goals for vaccinations among preteens and teens. The Healthy People 2010 goals are for 90 percent coverage, with three doses of HepB vaccine, two doses of MMR, one dose of Tdap, and one dose of VAR for those who have not previously had chickenpox. There is no Healthy People 2010 goal for HPV vaccination, which was first recommended in 2006.

"The strong start with the newly recommended vaccines is a good sign that we will see widespread acceptance of these vaccines and much broader coverage in future years," Rodewald said. "However, it is clear we have a long way to go before reaching the 90 percent targets."

More information

For more about vaccinations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted: October 2008


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