Teen girls in poor or predominately Hispanic communities are more likely to receive at least one dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine than those in other communities, a new study finds.
HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, penis and throat, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all girls and boys aged 11 to 12 receive three doses of the HPV vaccine.
Researchers examined 2011 and 2012 CDC data on provider-verified vaccination records for more than 20,500 girls, aged 13 to 17. In each of those years, 53 percent of the girls received at least one dose of HPV vaccine.
The highest vaccination initiation rate (69 percent) was among girls in predominately Hispanic communities and the lowest rates were among girls in predominately black communities (54 percent) and white communities (50 percent).
Poverty levels also influenced vaccination rates. Regardless of the racial/ethnic composition of a community, girls in communities in which at least 20 percent of the residents lived below the poverty line were 1.2 times more likely to have initiated HPV vaccination than those in the wealthiest communities.
The study was published Jan. 14 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
“HPV vaccines could dramatically reduce the incidence of HPV-associated cancers, but uptake of these vaccines is far lower than for other routine childhood and teen immunizations,” said study author Kevin Henry. He is an assistant professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and a member of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control program.
“The main goal of our study was to understand if geographic factors — that is, characteristics about a person’s community — affect vaccination uptake, because this knowledge could inform current efforts to increase vaccination and prevent cancer,” he said in a journal news release.
“The higher HPV vaccination rates among girls living in poor communities and majority Hispanic communities, which also tend to have high poverty rates, are encouraging because these communities often have higher cervical cancer rates. But, continued cervical cancer screening of vaccinated and unvaccinated women is needed because the vaccine does not cover all cancer-causing HPV types and sexually active women could have been infected prior to vaccination,” Henry said.
“The higher HPV vaccination rates in these groups also provide some evidence supporting successful health care practice and community-based interventions,” he added.
“What is not encouraging is that girls living in predominantly high-poverty non-Hispanic black communities have HPV vaccination rates that are lower than rates for Hispanics. Additional research is needed to better understand why these differences exist,” Henry concluded.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about HPV vaccination.