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Only 16% of U.S. Children Complete HPV Vaccination by Age 13

By Cleveland Clinic
Dailey Health Stories

See all this Month's Articles

Original Publish Date: August 6, 2019

The HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus – the virus known to cause most cervical cancers, as well as other cancers.

Experts recommend children begin the HPV vaccine series at a young age, but a recent study shows most children do not.

“Experts recommend that it starts by at least age 11, and that we complete the series by age 13,” said Kimberly Giuliano, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, who did not take part in the study. “This study found that only 16 percent of children had completed the HPV vaccine before their thirteenth birthday.”

Study authors interviewed 20,475 parents of teens between the ages of 13 and 17.

In addition to the low number of children receiving the HPV vaccine series before age 13, researchers learned that only 35 percent had completed it prior to age 15.

Dr. Giuliano said the low percentages are concerning, because the vaccine works better, the younger a child is when they receive it.

If a child receives the vaccine before age 15, they only need two doses, whereas if they are age 15 or older, they need three.

Dr. Giuliano said the vaccine’s protection is lasting, so there is no reason to delay. She said it’s best to have children vaccinated young to ensure they are 100 percent protected before there’s ever any potential for exposure to the virus.

In some cases, parents have expressed hesitation regarding the vaccine because of several myths surrounding it.

Some think the vaccine carries side effects, or can cause infertility, or that it will encourage teens to engage in risk-taking behavior, but Dr. Giuliano said these myths are simply not true – and studies have proven this.

“It is a completely safe vaccine, it’s just as safe as any other vaccine that we give, and it has the potential to save lives,” she said. “It’s our very first vaccine against cancer. It’s pretty impressive that we have a cancer vaccine, and also really concerning that not everybody is on board with getting it.”

Complete results of the study can be found in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.