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One-Third of U.S. Girls Get HPV Vaccine

But many parents choose to skip Gardasil shots for daughters age 13 to 17, survey finds

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Only about one-third of American girls ages 13 to 17 have received the vaccine to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), suggests a new study.

The vaccine, which targets four HPV strains strongly linked to cervical cancer, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006.

The researchers analyzed HPV vaccination rates among more than 1,700 girls in Delaware, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. The data came from a national telephone survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

"This was the first year the survey asked about HPV vaccination," study first author Sandi L. Pruitt, a postdoctoral research associate in the health behavior research division at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a news release.

"That portion of the survey was optional, and only six states opted to use it. Ideally, we'd like to know what's happening in more states, but these six states represent a good cross-section of urban and rural, rich and poor, and they do include girls from racial and ethnic groups that closely mirror the rest of the country," Pruitt said.

There were no racial disparities in terms of vaccination.

"That's very important because the highest burden of cervical cancer is among women of color, especially Hispanic women and those who live along the U.S.-Mexico border," Pruitt said.

Girls of parents with higher levels of education were more likely to have received the HPV vaccine, known as Gardisil, but rates of vaccination declined as family income levels rose. That may be due to the rising number of wealthier parents who choose not to vaccinate their children for anything, Pruitt said.

The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Of the estimated 11,000 women in the United States diagnosed with cervical cancer last year, about 4,000 will eventually die from the disease.

The American Cancer Society and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that girls and young women get the three-dose vaccine.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about HPV vaccination.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, June 1, 2010

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