Study: There's room for improvement in completion rates for HPV vaccine
In recent years, medical experts and organizations have been outspoken in their campaigns to increase the rate of vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV), a relatively widespread condition that increases the risk of cervical cancer.
A new study from researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) indicates that these efforts have been effective in getting girls in the doctor's office for an initial shot, but many do not complete the inoculation in a timely manner.
The HPV vaccine, approved in 2006 under the brand name Gardasil, requires a series of injections over six months. The study authors discovered that there has been a steep decline in the number of girls and women who complete the full inoculation since the drug's approval.
The team looked at the health insurance data of almost 272,000 girls and women who, by the age of 9 or older, had received one shot of the vaccination. When looking at all ages, the researchers reported that just 38 percent received all three shots within a year. However, there were significant disparities in completion rates between different age groups.
In girls 9 to 12 years old, there was a 63 percent decline in the rate of full vaccination. Similarly, the researchers observed a respective 62 percent and 49 percent decrease in the number of subjects in the 13 to 18 and 19 to 26 age groups who received all three shots in the recommended time period.
One positive finding was that there was a 37 percent increase in the rates of proper inoculation among women 27 and older. The authors theorized that this is because older women are in charge of making their own doctor's appointments.
Additionally, the researchers discovered that girls and women who received their initial shot from an obstetrician or gynecologist were significantly more likely to complete the schedule than subjects who were first seen by a pediatrician.
The implications for female sexual health
Authors of the study concluded that parental education on the HPV vaccine, its efficacy and how it must be administered may be needed. They said this could be done through phone, email or text messages.
"It appears that patients and parents do not understand that all three shots of the vaccine are required for HPV protection, and that perhaps physicians are not doing a good enough job of educating and reminding patients to ensure completion," said lead author Abbey Berenson, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health at UTMB.