Half of Girls Don't Receive HPV Vaccine by Recommended Age

January 24, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Only about half of girls immunized against human papillomavirus received the vaccine at the age recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only about half of girls immunized against human papillomavirus (HPV) received the vaccine at the age recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a new study.

For their work published in Vaccine, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston analyzed the CDC’s National Immunization Survey of Teens’ data from 2008 to 2012 to determine how many girls received the vaccine at <13 years.

The good news is that the number of girls who receive the HPV vaccine at the recommended age is increasing. Only 14.1% of girls received the vaccine at <13 years in 2008, but that percentage has grown each subsequent year and reached 55.9% in 2012, according to the researchers.

While the trend is moving in the right direction, the study authors emphasized that more effort is needed to encourage more girls to follow the CDC’s age recommendations.

Lead researcher Mahbubur Rahman, MBBS, PhD, MPH, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB, told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists play a very important role in the vaccine delivery system, so he devised a few ways pharmacists could help facilitate HPV vaccination at the CDC-recommended age.

For instance, when a child comes to the pharmacy for any immunization, a pharmacist can remind the parent about the appropriate age for the HPV vaccine, Dr. Rahman explained. Anytime parents ask about the side effects of a vaccine, pharmacists can also remind them about the age recommendation for the HPV immunization.

In addition, pharmacists can highlight the issue on their store’s website.

“As parents very often visit pharmacy-related websites, they would read it and gain the related knowledge,” Dr. Rahman told Pharmacy Times. “As a result, they might take their eligible children earlier than they thought before.”

In general, pharmacists could also try to play an advocacy role and bring the issue to light in the community, he added.

HPV will affect about half of sexually active individuals at least once in their lifetimes, and it is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the nation. The HPV vaccine can help protect against 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts cases.