HPV vaccination isn't catching on in the U.S. as well as public health officials--not to mention manufacturers--had hoped. Less than half of teenage girls have received even one dose of a vaccine designed to ward off human papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts, as well as cervical and other types cancers. And only one-third have received all three doses, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study found.
"[T]he HPV results are very concerning. Our progress is stagnating, and if we don't make major changes, far too many girls in this generation will remain vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's immunization center, said in a statement. "Now that we have the tools to prevent most cervical cancers, it is critical that we use them."
Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil shot, which targets four strains of HPV, including one that causes genital warts, has been FDA-approved for use in teen girls since 2006. Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), a bivalent vaccine, won FDA approval in 2009.
HPV vaccination rates are rising, just not as quickly as are rates for other vaccinations--and not as quickly as CDC officials want. Thirty-two percent of girls got all three HPV doses, which is an increase of 5.3% year-over-year. The increase in coverage for meningitis vaccines was 9.1%, while the increase for Tdap shots was 13.3%. And as Pharmalot points out, the data make clear that poor and minority girls are lagging other groups in HPV vaccination.