HPV vaccine is not embraced by young women [Updated]


The HPV vaccine was approved in 2006 as the first vaccine that can prevent a type of cancer. The vaccine protects against several common strains of human papilloma virus, which causes genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer. However, a new study show that a majority of young women who are eligible for the vaccine are either not getting it or are not following the three-shot protocol to be fully immunized.

Researchers from the University of Maryland analyzed data from 9,658 teenagers and young women who were eligible for the HPV vaccination at the University of Maryland Medical Center between August 2006 and August 2010. Fewer than one-third (2,641 people) of the women started the three-shot series. Among those women, 39% got a single dose and 30% received two doses. An additional 31% got the complete regimen.

Doctors may need to do a better job of encouraging patients to adhere to the three-shot regimen, the authors of the study said. (The second shot should be given one to two months after the first dose; the final shot six months after the first dose.) The authors of the study, presented Tuesday at the American Assn. for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention conference in Philadelphia, are exploring whether text-message reminders would help to get teens and young women back to the clinic to complete the series of shots.


Gardasil is licensed for females age 9 through 26 and Cervarix is licensed for females age 10 through 25. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all girls who are 11 or 12 years old get the three doses (shots) of either brand of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer and precancer. Girls and young women age 13 through 26 should get all three doses of an HPV vaccine if they have not received all doses yet. Gardasil is also licensed for males age 9 through 26 to prevent genital warts.

Related: Is HPV vaccine worth it? Researchers weigh in; you may have to decide.

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[Updated, 9:17 a.m. Nov. 10: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said both Gardasil and Cervarix were approved for females age 9 to 26.]