Just under half of American teenage girls have gotten even one dose of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report says, and only one-third have received all three doses required to establish immunity against the sexually-transmitted virus, which can cause cervical cancer.
A CDC doctor told The Associated Press that the low vaccination rates are "very disappointing," especially considering that around two-thirds of girls have received other recommended vaccines, including meningitis, tetanus, whooping cough, and diphtheria. The CDC's Dr. Melinda Wharton attributed the low HPV vaccination rate to the expense of the shot, plus poor public education about its value and intention
"If we don't do a much better job, we're leaving another generation vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life," Wharton told the AP. Further:
Girls are supposed to start the series when they are 11 or 12 -- before most girls become sexually active. The vaccine only works if a girl is vaccinated before she's first exposed to the virus.
But some parents may misunderstand, thinking their daughters don't need it at such a young age because they aren't sexually active. Others may believe that it would require a discussion about sex and sexuality -- a talk they may not feel ready to have, some experts said.
The government needs to be more aggressive about changing those perceptions with a major education campaign, Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, said in a statement.
(image via: http://www.impactlab.net)