More than a fourth of teen girls in the United States received a shot to protect them against a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. A Medical College of Georgia researcher who conducts clinical trials on the shot said he is disappointed it isn't more.
It is the first time the CDC has been able to report on coverage rates for the shot that protects against human papillomavirus, or HPV.
The vaccine, marketed under the name Gardasil, was approved in 2006 for females age 9-26 and was added to the list of recommended immunizations for girls ages 11 and 12 by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
The second annual immunization survey of children ages 13-17 focused on that shot and two others added since 2005: a meningococcal conjugate vaccine and a tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine.
The survey found that 25.1 percent of girls, an estimated 2.5 million, had received the HPV vaccine.
"This is very good for a first-year measurement for a new vaccine," said Dr. Lance Rodewald, the director of the Division of Immunization Services at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
That does not cover all of the teens and women who have received it -- the company said it has shipped 15 million doses so far, he said. The CDC survey was designed to see how many are getting the dose at the recommended 11- to 12-year-old range, Dr. Rodewald said.
MCG researcher Daron G. Ferris, who conducted extensive studies on the HPV vaccine before it was approved and has ongoing trials on it, said he wishes more had been covered.
"I think 25 percent is great," Dr. Ferris said. "It's better than zero, but I would have hoped that would be, in two years, at least half if not more. I think we need to go a long way. We haven't done enough yet to get the target age group properly vaccinated to prevent these diseases."
Data has been submitted to increase the age limit to 45, but the FDA has yet to approve it, he said. Dr. Ferris hopes that will happen this year or in 2009.
He also has a clinical trial to study the HPV shot in boys that should wrap up in the next few months.
"If there are promising findings, we'll have a vaccine for boys, I would hope available by next year as well," he said.
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WHY NOT MORE?
Vaccine proponents had been hoping for much higher vaccination rates, saying the shots could dramatically reduce the nearly 4,000 cervical cancer deaths that occur each year in the United States. Some reasons why families might have opted to not get the vaccine:
- Sometimes families are cautious about the safety of new vaccines.
- It is expensive, retailing for about $375, though many health insurers cover it.
- There are questions about whether it confers lifetime immunity or whether a booster shot will be needed.
The CDC also studied other teen vaccination rates:
- About 32 percent of teens got a recommended meningitis shot, up from 12 percent in a 2006 survey.
- About 30 percent got another relatively new shot, one that guards against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. That's up from 11 percent in the survey the year before.
- About 75 percent to 90 percent of children have had the better-known vaccinations that have long been required by schools, such as chickenpox, hepatitis B and measles, mumps and rubella, the study found.
-- Associated Press