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CDC: Fewer girls getting all 3 doses of HPV vaccine

Getting all three doses of the HPV vaccine can provide protection against virus strains connected to 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

Despite the benefits, vaccination rates for girls aged 13 to 17 did not increase between 2011 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics announced on Thursday. In fact, the percentage of girls getting all three doses decreased during the time period.

"Progress increasing HPV vaccination has stalled, risking the health of the next generation," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a press release. "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 its given at every opportunity."

The statistics were published on July 26 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

HPVs (human papillomavirus) are a group of more than 100 common viruses, 40 of which can be transmitted sexually. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with an HPV. They are so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get at lest one type of sexually-transmitted HPV during their lifetime.

While most people who are infected with HPV will fight it off naturally, some strains have been known to cause diseases like genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils), vulva, vagina, penis and anal cancer.

Two HPV vaccines are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people between the ages of nine to 26. However, they are only effective if the vaccine is administered before the person has contracted HPV, which is why doctors urge pre-teen patients to get the three shots before they are sexually active.

"Parents need reassurance that HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 because it should be given well in advance of any sexual activity," Frieden explained. "We don't wait for exposure to occur before we vaccinate with any other routinely recommended vaccine."

After the vaccine was introduced, vaccine-type HPV strain rates dropped 56 percent among 14 to 19-year-old girls, a June study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases revealed.

Currently, only 33 percent of girls between 13 and 17 have received the full three-dose series. Because of current vaccination levels, the CDC predicts that an additional 4,400 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 1,400 will die of cervical cancers that could have been prevented.

Among the unvaccinated girls, 84 percent had a healthcare visit where they were given another vaccine. Had the girls received the HPV vaccine at that time, the one-dose rate would have climbed from 54 percent to 93 percent.

The 2012 NIS-Teen data revealed that one of the main reasons why parents did not get the HPV vaccine for their daughters was because a healthcare provider did not recommend it. Medical professionals are supposed to give a strong recommendation that girls and boys between 11 and 12 receive the shot.

Another concern was over the safety of the vaccine. A March 2013 study in Pediatrics showed that parents' number one concern over the vaccine was safety. Forty-four percent of parents who did not want their children to get the HPV vaccine said it was because they were afraid it may cause negative side effects.

The HPV vaccine is not a live viral vaccine, meaning you can't get HPV from the shot. Side effects have included pain, redness or swelling at the injection sight, mild dizziness, nausea and headache or fainting -- the same side effects for any shot. There was also an increase of blood clots in the lungs compared to women who received other vaccines, but 90 percent of the people who had the clots who got the HPV vaccine also had another risk factor that increased their chances.

Other reasons parents gave for not vaccinating their daughters was that they didn't think the vaccine was needed, they didn't know about the vaccine or the disease, and that their daughter was not sexually active yet.

Studies have shown that young people who receive the vaccine are no more promiscuous than those who did not get it.

"HPV vaccine does not open the door to sex," Frieden said to HealthDay. "HPV vaccine closes the door to cancer."

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