COMMENTARY

Immunization in Teens: Good News, Bad News

Paul A. Offit, MD

Disclosures

October 07, 2011

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Hi. My name is Paul Offit and I am talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. The CDC recently published a study[1] in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that looked at the rates of immunization for adolescent-specific vaccines among youth between 13 and 17 years of age. What they found was some good news and some not so good news. The immunization rates against Tdap [tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis] had increased by about 13% from the previous year. Immunization rates with the conjugate meningococcal vaccine had increased about 9%. For both Tdap and the conjugate meningococcal vaccine, immunization rates were in the mid-60% range; thus, about two thirds of adolescents are getting these vaccines.

The news for the HPV vaccine, however, was not good. These epidemiologists found that immunization rates for HPV increased only 4% from the previous year. Only about one third of girls for whom this vaccine is recommended are getting it. This is a vaccine that prevents the only known cause of cervical cancer, which accounts for 10,000 cases and 4000 deaths every year. Yet we are raising a generation of girls, many of whom will still be susceptible to this disease, even though we have the technology to prevent it. Worse, if you look at who is not getting the vaccine, they are primarily in African American and Hispanic groups, many are below the poverty line, and these specifically are the groups that are most likely to get HPV. I think it is somewhat unconscionable that we are ignoring this technology. The study also showed, not surprisingly, that only about 1% of boys get this vaccine, because although licensed, it is not yet recommended for boys. I hope that will change soon.

Thank you for your attention.

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