A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than half of U.S. teens aren’t finishing their full dose of the HPV vaccine.
The report says 43 percent of American teenagers are receiving their full three doses of the HPV vaccine. However, the same report found more than 80 percent of American teens got the vaccine that protects against meningitis. The researchers praised teens for starting the vaccine series, but are urging the public to finish the doses.
The HPV protects people from one of the most common sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus. The same vaccine is also known to be making some improvements in the fight against cancer.
Less than half of American teens are finishing HPV vaccination
The report, published recently in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said that only 50 percent of girls and less than 40 percent of boys in the country had received the HPV vaccination.
“We’re excited that people are coming in and starting the series,” said Shannon Stokley, an associate director for science for the immunization services division at CDC, who worked on the report, according to Jezebel. “But now we need to work on getting them back in so they’re getting all the doses to complete the series.”
The researchers noted the low rates are particularly puzzling when they compared the numbers for other vaccines teenagers received around the same time. For instance, they found that 88 percent of teens received the Tdap vaccine –which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertissus—in 2016. Moreover, 82 percent of teens got the vaccine against meningitis.
The authors said the study shows the public health leaders, doctors, and physicians, need to do more, such as administering the HPV vaccination when they give teens the Tdap vaccine.
The CDC changed the recommended HPV vaccination schedule at the end of 2016, reducing the three necessary doses to two for teens who haven’t turned 15 years old. People aged 15 to 26 years should still receive the regular three doses of the series.
HPV has 150 different virus strains
HPV is a group of over 150 related viruses, and each virus is given a different number. Some HPV types can lead to cancer; with the most common being mouth, throat, or anus cancer for women, and penile cancer the most common for men, according to the CDC. Moreover, women can also get cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancers from the disease.
The virus is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. The virus can be passed even when a person has no symptoms or signs of the disease, and it can develop years after being infected.
Usually, HPV goes away on its own and causes no health problems, but when it lingers on it can cause problems like genital warts and cancer. Warts commonly appear as a small bump of bumps in the genital area.
HPV drug could prevent HPV-related cancers
A study published last week in the British medical journal Lancet found that an HPV drug, branded as Gardasil 9, could prevent 90 percent of cervical and vaginal cancers, 90 percent of HPV anal cancer and genital warts, and about 78 percent of cervical diseases,
“The results of this study support comprehensive vaccination programs,” said Anna Giuliano, a study co-author and director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, according to Seeker.
HPV infects four out of five women by the time they turn 50 years old, said the researchers of the new Lancet study. At least 90 percent of people with HPV see their disease disappear sometime between a few months to two years after getting the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
However, two kinds of HPV –16 and 18—are responsible for causing 70 percent of cervical cancer. An estimated 300,000 women –80 percent of them in the developing world—die from cervical cancer each year.
Giuliano and her colleagues from 18 countries studied over 14,000 women between the ages 16 and 26, and compared the effects of Gardasil to other HPV vaccines, and followed their health progress for six years. The researchers noted other versions of Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s drug Cervarix are currently working only to prevent HPV types 16 and 18.
The studies come as National Cancer Institute researchers John Schiller and Douglas Lowy are to receive the Lasker Award, a high distinction in medicine, for their work on preventing HPV. The Lasker Foundation said that while the benefits of Gardasil in the U.S. could take years to materialize, promising rates are being seen in Australia.
“The lag between HPV infection and cancer diagnosis means that the vaccines presumptive ability to reduce malignancies will not become obvious until at least 2030,” said the foundation in a statement. “In Australia, for instance, the incidence of genital warts and precancerous cervical abnormalities in young women is plummeting.”