HPV: The Facts and Figures

On August 17, NY City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced she had been diagnosed with HPV virus (human papillomavirus) in an attempt to raise awareness for women’s health. Since then, the media has been shocked by the persistently low rates of vaccination among children and teenagers. While there are many speculations as to why rates remain low, health professionals are urging the public to ask their doctor about the 3-part vaccine.

HPV is a highly infectious virus that has been shown to cause multiple types of aggressive cancer later in life. According to the Center for Disease Control, 75% of sexually active women acquire it at some time in their lives. In the past, the CDC recommended that only girls ages 11-12 get the vaccine. It is now suggested that both boys and girls of that age group get vaccinated as a preventative measure for the future.

Top 5 Reasons Parents Gave for Not Vaccinating Their Child

  1. Vaccine not needed (19.1%)
  2. Vaccine not recommended (by provider) (14.2%)
  3. Vaccine safety concerns (13.1%)
  4. Lack of knowledge about vaccine (12.6%)
  5. Child is not sexually active (10.1%)

While the HPV vaccine is available and often covered by insurance, the rates of vaccination remain low. In 2013, 38% of American girls and 14% of boys ages 13 to 17 had completed all three steps of the vaccination. On the other hand, many countries have taken the risk of HPV very seriously. Rwanda reports a vaccination rate of 80% for teenage girls.

A major challenge to completing vaccination is the fact that this vaccination is a three-step process over a series of 6 months. This vaccination takes effort on the part of patient. While they may not need to remember to ask their doctor about the vaccine, they do need to remember to return after three months and then about a year to receive a full round of the series.

Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of vaccinating your child. The vaccine is also available for older teenagers and young adults in their early 20s.

For more information on the HPV virus and vaccine, visit the CDC website.


Read more here- “The Hidden Adherence Problem: HPV Vaccination Series Completion is Not as Easy as 1, 2, 3,” (Newell E. McElwee, Pharmacy Times)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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