Issue: October 2017
August 28, 2017
2 min read

HPV vaccination rate up among teens, but improvement still needed

Issue: October 2017
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Photo of Brenda Fitzgerald
Brenda Fitzgerald

Although six out of 10 parents in the United States are getting their children vaccinated against human papillomavirus, many are not completing the vaccination series, leaving them unprotected from HPV-associated cancers, according to data in MMWR.

“I’m pleased with the progress, but too many teens are still not receiving the HPV vaccine – which leaves them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infections,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, said in a press release. “We need to do more to increase the vaccination rate and protect American youth today from future cancers tomorrow.”

The 2016 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for HPV vaccination advise for a two-dose schedule beginning before the age of 15 years to protect against cancers caused by HPV, whereas those who begin the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, require three doses of HPV vaccine to protect against these cancers. Also in 2016, the CDC updated its HPV vaccine recommendations, urging children aged 11 to 12 years to receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least 6 months apart.

To assess adolescent vaccination coverage in the U.S., Tanja Y. Walker, MPH, from the Immunization Services Division at CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and colleagues examined data on 20,475 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years from the annual National Immunization Survey-Teen (NIS-Teen) report. A new HPV up-to-date measure was added to the 2016 annual report to account for the modified HPV vaccination schedule.

Analysis showed that 60% of adolescents aged 13 to 17 received one or more doses of HPV vaccine in 2016, which is 4 percentage points higher than 2015; however, only 43% of adolescents have received all the recommended doses of HPV vaccine. HPV up-to-date assessments were 49.5% for girls and 37.5% for boys, and 6 to 6.5 percentage points higher than teens who received three or more doses. Vaccine coverage was 15 percentage points lower among teens living in non-metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) than among those living in MSA central cities. Researchers observed that the difference in vaccination rates between boys and girls has lessened, with approximately 65% of girls receiving the first dose of HPV vaccine compared with 56% of boys, and a 6-percentage point increase from 2015 among boys.

Although teen vaccination coverage continues to improve, a better understanding of reasons for differences in HPV vaccination by MSA status may determine appropriate strategies to expand coverage even more and increase HPV-associated cancer prevention.

Nancy Messonnier
Nancy Messonnier

“Recent changes to the vaccine recommendations mean preventing cancer is easier now than ever before,” Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in the press release. “Now is the time for parents to protect their children from cancers caused by HPV.” – by Savannah Demko


Walker TY, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6633a2.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.