HPV vaccination rates increase, CDC urges more effort to protect teens

Efforts to boost the national HPV vaccination rate are yielding some positive results, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Indeed, 6 out of 10 U.S. parents are now choosing to get the vaccine for their children

Nationwide, 60% of teens ages 13 to 17 received at least one dose of the shot last year to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV)  a 4% increase from 2015, while the vaccination gap between girls and boys continues to narrow.

Sixty-five percent of girls and 56% of boys received at least one dose of the HPV shot last year, according to the CDC. However, only 43% of teens completed the schedule. The agency maintains more work needs to be done to further boost HPV vaccination rates. Rates lagged in rural areas as well, according to the CDC.

RELATED: Physicians must talk to parents, send reminders to increase HPV vaccination

"I'm pleased with the progress, but too many teens are still not receiving the HPV vaccine—which leaves them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infection," CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald said in a statement. She added that health officials “need to do more to increase the vaccination rate and protect American youth today from future cancers tomorrow."

In an effort to boost rates, the CDC last year changed the HPV vaccination schedule from three doses to two for children 15 and under. Teens and young adults older than 15 still need three shots.

RELATED: Vaccine controversy makes pediatricians' job harder, doc says

The pharmaceutical company, Merck, which now produces the only HPV shot available in the U.S., has taken its own efforts to boost the vaccination rate, for example by introducing an ad that puts the onus on parents to get their children vaccinated, according to FierceHealthcare’s sister publication, FiercePharma.

Public health officials say there are a number of reasons why children don't get the HPV vaccine, including physicians' and parents' reluctance to talk about sex. HPV viruses are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. and in 10% of cases lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. To increase vaccination rates, physicians and other practitioners are urged to discuss the HPV vaccine with parents and convey its importance. While some doctors might believe parents aren't interested in the vaccine for their children, that's not the case and a recommendation from a physician increases the chance young people will get the full three immunizations.

Advocates also urge physicians to send out reminders when children are due for their vaccinations.

Read the full FiercePharma report here.