Monday, September 25, 2017

Vaccine to prevent HPV-caused cancers gains ground among teenagers, but rural areas lag

The vaccine is administered in three shots.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more teenagers nationwide are getting the human papillomavirus vaccine, but rural areas are still lagging. "Sixty percent of adolescents received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine in 2016, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2015, researchers found. About a decade ago, the figure was less than 30 percent," Aneri Pattani reports for The New York Times.

But rural HPV vaccination rates are 15 percentage points lower than in cities. The report speculates that the discrepancy could be because of differences in parents' opinions or a shortage of pediatricians in rural areas. Shannon Stokley, the co-author of the study and the associate director for science at the Immunization Services Division of the CDC, says, "It’s a new finding, and at this point we really don’t know what’s behind that. We need to better understand what’s going on in rural communities."

"The vaccine protects against strains of HPV that can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus and back of the throat. Close to half of all Americans are infected at any given time, and nearly 32,000 get cancer from the virus each year," Pattani reports. The vaccine could have prevented 90 percent of those cases, according to the CDC. New guidelines may make it easier for teens to complete the series; last year the CDC changed the guidelines from three doses to two doses for teens under 15.

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