Half of US Teens Getting HPV Vaccinations

 Mother and pre-teen son speaking with a doctor in exam room

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that just over half (51.1%) of teenagers were fully vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) as of 2018, up 2.5 percentage points from 48.6% in 2017. More than 68% had received at least the first dose of the vaccine, up 2.6 percentage points from 65.5% in 2017. Results from the 2018 National Immunization Survey of 18,700 teens 13-17 years old were published August 22, 2019 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The report shows girls are being vaccinated at a higher rate than boys, but boys made a bigger improvement in 2018. About 53.7% of girls were up to date on HPV vaccine coverage last year, up from 53.1% the year before. Among boys, 48.7% were fully vaccinated in 2018 compared with 44.3% in 2017.

HPV vaccination is recommended for children when they are 11 or 12, although it can be started at age 9 and can be given later for those who need to catch up. The vaccination is given as a series of either 2 or 3 shots. It protects against certain types of HPV that can cause 6 different types of cancer. According to the CDC, an estimated 34,800 cases of cancer caused by HPV occur in the US each year, and 32,100 of these could be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

The report shows HPV vaccination rates were 28 percentage points higher for kids whose doctors recommended it. Overall, 77.5% of parents reported a doctor recommending their child be vaccinated against HPV. Doctors’ recommendations varied by state, ranging from a low of 59.5% in Mississippi to a high of 90.7% in Massachusetts.

Protection against cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends parents of boys and girls nearing their 11th birthday talk to their child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine. Getting children vaccinated before they are exposed to HPV is the best way to protect them from getting HPV-related cancer when they are adults.

The CDC encourages doctors to recommend HPV vaccination in the same way and at the same time as they recommend the other age-appropriate vaccinations, including those that protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (Tdap) and meningitis.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Published August 22, 2019 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. First author Tanja Y. Walker, MPH, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.


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