A weekly CDC report indicates that fewer than 35% of adolescent girls aged 11-13 have been fully vaccinated with all three doses of the vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV). The percentage did not increase at all between 2011 and 2012. Officials have been pushing the HPV vaccine because it has been proven to be very effective in lowering a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer later in life.
Officials are not sure why the percentage of girls who have been fully vaccinated remains so low. Part of the problem, of course, is that full vaccination requires three visits, rather than just one. Indeed, 53.8% of girls had had at least one vaccination by 2012, but then a lot of them failed to receive the other two.
The reason for the failure to receive the 2nd and 3rd doses of HPV vaccine clearly is not parental resistance to giving the vaccine to girls so young (before they are sexually active), because so many girls have already had the first dose. Nor is it a lack of opportunity, since girls of that age do go to the doctor for other vaccinations. Officials speculate that physicians are simply missing the opportunity to offer the vaccine. Officials calculate that if girls had been offered the HPV vaccination during the girls’ regular doctor’s visits, the percentage of girls who had received more than one vaccination could have been as high as 92.6%.
And that means that the focus of the CDCs efforts may have to shift to physician education, rather than parental education.