Source: Washington University in St. Louis
The HPV vaccine prevents four strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, two of which are found in about 70 percent of all women with cervical cancer. Both the American Cancer Society and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that women and girls receive the vaccine, but the new data shows that only 34 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 were vaccinated in the six states surveyed.
“The good news is that the vaccination rate is increasing,” says first author Sandi L. Pruitt, PhD. “The bad news is this is just the first dose of a three-dose vaccine.”
Pruitt, a postdoctoral research associate in Washington University’s Division of Health Behavior Research, tracked rates of HPV vaccination in Delaware, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. She and senior investigator Mario Schootman, PhD, analyzed data from 1,709 girls in 274 counties of the six states in this study. The information came from a national telephone survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
“This was the first year the survey asked about HPV vaccination,” Pruitt says. “That portion of the survey was optional, and only six states opted to use it. Ideally, we’d like to know what’s happening in more states, but these six states represent a good cross-section of urban and rural, rich and poor, and they do include girls from racial and ethnic groups that closely mirror the rest of the country.”
More than 70 percent of the girls in this study were white, and almost 75 percent had health insurance. Girls living in states with more poverty were less likely to get the HPV vaccine, but higher poverty rates in the individual counties within those states and lower family income levels actually made it more likely a girl would be vaccinated. Pruitt says those seemingly contradictory findings may be explained in part by the way in which funding for vaccines is allocated.