The vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) is not nearly universally given to girls in the United States despite experts repeated assurances that the vaccine is not only safe, but it is effective at preventing a number of cancers, including cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that just half of US girls have received it, often because pediatricians are not recommending it be given at the same time as other routine vaccines. More from NBC News:
"One of the top reasons is their doctor didn't recommend (it)," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden toLd reporters in a conference call.
"We are dropping the ball," he added. "We are missing the opportunity to give HPV vaccine... This is a huge disappointment."
Even so, studies have shown HPV infections fell by half after vaccines became available. "HPV vaccine works even better than we hoped," Frieden says. "HPV vaccine is safe."
The CDC study did not look at how many boys and young men had been vaccinated, although the vaccine can prevent cancer in men, also, and has been recommended for boys since 2011.
Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said his organization would reach out to pediatricians to make sure they do more to get boys and girls vaccinated.
"Doctors need to step up their efforts by talking to parents about the importance of HPV vaccine just as they do other vaccines and ensure it's given at every opportunity," Frieden added in a statement. "Parents need reassurance that HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 because it should be given well in advance of any sexual activity."
Image: Girl getting a shot, via Shutterstock