University of Minnesota study: Efforts to increase HPV vaccination are urgently needed in all U.S. adolescent populations

Monday, April 18, 2016

A new study from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health finds that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination remains low in a representative sample of U.S. adolescents from 2009-2014 with only 35 percent of females and 10 percent of males receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends completing the 3-dose series.

The study findings were published online today in Vaccine.

Researchers set out to investigate whether obese and overweight adolescents in the U.S. were less likely to receive the HPV vaccine, less likely to complete the 3-dose series, or more likely to start the vaccination at an older age. Previous research suggested that obese and overweight teens from a small sample size of low-income individuals were less likely to receive the HPV vaccination on the recommended schedule. The University of Minnesota sought to see if this study could be replicated in a large, representative sample of female and male U.S. adolescents.

“In the U.S., the HPV vaccines have been recommended for girls since 2006 and boys since 2009. However, vaccine uptake has been disappointingly low and far from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent coverage,” said Nicole Basta, Ph.D., co-author of the study and assistant professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Current efforts to improve HPV vaccine uptake could be enhanced by defining target groups at greatest risk of failing to receive HPV vaccine.”

Basta, in collaboration with University of Minnesota School of Public Health graduate student Maria Sundaram and assistant professor Susan Mason, Ph.D., found there is no evidence to support a strategy of targeting HPV vaccination to obese and overweight adolescents. Rather, all adolescents should be encouraged by their health care provider to receive the vaccination regardless of their weight status.

The study also found:

  • Obese and overweight adolescents are as likely to receive HPV vaccination as their normal-weight peers.
  • Obese and overweight adolescents are as likely to complete the 3-dose HPV vaccination series as their normal-weight peers.

“HPV vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective and are the first ever cancer-fighting vaccines,” said Basta. “Under-utilization of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy and vaccine refusal are all major public health concerns so we as public health professionals must work diligently to ensure that vaccine uptake increases and is maintained at a high level.”

Basta and her colleagues add that HPV vaccination research would benefit from novel strategies to improve vaccine uptake that are specifically targeted towards adolescents. New research efforts are underway to design and evaluate interventions that could improve vaccine uptake among all adolescents eligible for HPV vaccination.