HPV vaccination rates among adolescent boys have increased since 2011, but they still remain too low, a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown.
The findings were published on October 26, in the journal Pediatrics by a team of researchers at the Immunization Services Division, of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Experts reviewed data collected during the 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen, a randomized telephone survey funded by the CDC in order to assess the scope and distribution of vaccination across the U.S.
Survey information pertaining to 9,554 male teenagers, aged 13 to 17, was aggregated and analyzed. Overall, researchers determined that currently just 13.9% of American adolescent males have been administered the 3-dose HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
Although this percentage has grown from 1.4% in 2010 and 8.3% in 2011, vaccination rates still remain alarmingly low.
The proportion of those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is at 34.6%, and immunization rates are higher among Hispanic teens (49.6%) and black teens (42.2%), than among white respondents (29.7%).
Vaccination coverage when it comes to taking all 3 doses is also higher among African-American and Hispanic participants: 20.3% and 15.7%, respectively, compared to just 11.1% among white adolescents.
Aside from the fact that vaccination is more common among Hispanic and black respondents, researchers have also discovered other potential factors that heighten the possibility that a male adolescent has received at least one HPV immunization dose.
These include: having a single mother; being born outside the U.S.; getting regular immunization from at least one provider; participating in a well-child visit at the age of 11 or 12; being from an urban or suburban area; and having had between and 3 medical check-ups in the last year.
On the other hand, vaccination is much less likely among those who live in the South or Midwest, who have higher socioeconomic status, or a college-educated mother who is at least 45 years old.
A possible explanation for this disparity is the fact that there are several federal initiatives, which provide free vaccination for low-income families, study leaders have pointed out.
HPV is the most frequently encountered sexually transmitted infection in the United States, affecting around 79 million people, more than half of all sexually active men and women.
14 million new infections occur each year, and usually having HPV will not result in any symptoms. However, in some cases, prolonged or recurrent infections can be life-threatening, resulting in malignant tumors.
On an annual basis, around 26,000 new cancers related to HPV are diagnosed, including 9,000 among male patients.
“HPV-related cancers in males include many anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV-associated oropharyngeal and anal cancers have increased among males”, warned study authors.
Given these significant risks, health experts recommend the HPV4 vaccine (Gardasil) for males aged 11-12 years in a 3-dose series which can start as early as 9 years of age, in order to prevent anal cancer and genital warts caused by HPV, types 6, 11, 16 or 18.
Alternatively, doctors recommend catch-up vaccination between the age of 13 and 21, for those who haven’t yet received proper immunization.
However, according to study authors, many young boys fail to get adequate protection from this dangerous virus. The most commonly cited excuse is that there was no such recommendation from the health provider (24%).
Other pretexts are: conviction that the vaccine is unimportant or unnecessary (18.9%), lack of knowledge (16.4%), lack of sexual activity (8.1%) and worries over potential side effects (7.3%).
Overall, study authors caution that their findings indicate parents are insufficiently informed about the risks associated with HPV, and with the importance of this vaccine, as specified by guidelines issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Image Source: Flickr