There may still be controversy over human papillomavirus vaccines - notably, Merck's Gardasil - but teenage vaccination rates are creeping up, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of more than 20,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 17 (see here). The vaccines, which include GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix, were endorsed by public health officials to thwart cervical cancer.
Specifically, the survey found increases in the percentage of teens who received vaccines routinely recommended for 11 and 12-year-olds. Among teenage girls who received at least one of three necessary doses of an HPV vaccine, coverage increased 7 percent to about 44 percent. But for girls who received all three doses, coverage was only 27 percent, which amounted to a 9 percent increase.
There were no coverage differences seen between racial or ethnic groups who received one dose, but coverage was higher among teens living in poverty compared with those living at or above the poverty level, the CDC reports. For all three recommended doses, there were coverage differences between racial and ethnic groups, including significantly lower coverage for blacks and Hispanics.
The findings echo a recent study that noted only 34 percent of teenage girls ages 13 to 17 received Merck’s Gardasil. But while vaccination rates remain low, the results indicated an increase from earlier studies showing only about 25 percent of teenage girls were vaccinated (see background).
Gardasil prevents four strains of HPV, two of which are found in about 70 percent of all women with cervical cancer. The Merck vaccine has been controversial, in part, because the drugmaker lobbied states surreptiously for mandatory vaccination; the price tag is high; side effect concerns continue to generate publicity, and some parents remain skittish the vaccine offers a green light for teenage sex. The Glaxo vaccine, which was approved last year by the FDA, protects against two HPV strains.