Star Tribune (03.18.13)
Almost a third of U.S. girls aged 13 to 17 had been vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) in 2010—compared to only 18 percent in 2008—but pediatricians had hoped for a 60 percent immunization rate by 2013. HPV vaccination prevents infection with the sexually transmitted virus that causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and kills 4,000 women each year. Vaccination also prevents genital warts and other cancers linked with HPV. Although CDC recommends the 3-dose HPV vaccine for boys and girls aged 11 to 12 years, approximately 40 percent of U.S. parents opt out for their children. In contrast, over 80 percent of children aged 14 to 17 received booster shots for pertussis and tetanus in 2010. Over 60 percent had received viral meningitis immunization.
According to Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Robert Jacobson, some parents fear that vaccinating their children for HPV gives tacit permission for becoming sexually active. Other parents fear side effects of the vaccine; Gardasil manufacturer Merck lists fainting and then falling as a possible side effect.
Forty-one states have considered legislation to mandate vaccination for HPV. Although most states decided to promote HPV vaccination through public awareness campaigns or to study the vaccine further, Virginia and Washington, D.C. did pass mandates. The Minnesota Family Council opposed mandated HPV vaccination in 2007, preferring to leave the decision to vaccinate up to parents. A 2012 Kaiser Permanente study of 1,200 Georgia girls reported no difference in pregnancy rates or treatment for STDs among HPV-vaccinated girls and those who were not vaccinated for HPV.
The full report, “Reasons for Not Vaccinating Adolescents: National Immunization Survey of Teens, 2008–2010,” was published in the journal Pediatrics (2013; doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2384).