Only a fraction of the girls and young women eligible for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine actually get it, according to a study presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Cancer Research. Research shows the three-dose vaccine is an effective means of preventing the spread of the sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer.
Of those who receive the first dose of the vaccine, only about a third complete the three necessary doses according to the study.
Researchers examined the electronic health records of more than 9,600 girls, teens and women, ages 9 to 26, who had been patients at the University of Maryland Medical Centers between August 2006 and August 2010. Only 27 percent of the patients who were eligible for the vaccine began the process and took the first dose.
It's not known if all the patients had received information about the vaccine during their visits or why so many of the women opted not to start the vaccine, according to the researchers.
"What's concerning is people starting and not completing the vaccine," says J. Kathleen Tracy, Ph.D., the study's author and assistant professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "If you think you are protected and you're not...you might have a false sense of security."
Tracy and her colleagues are trying to determine what negative consequences exist, if any, when women don't complete the vaccination process. No data are currently available to determine what degree of protection a patient can get from taking only the first or second dose of the HPV vaccine. Yet it's reasonable to conclude the most significant protection is afforded to the patient who completes the vaccine, as intended.
According to Tracy, women ages 18 to 26 were the least likely to follow through with the vaccine and take all three doses. Although their health records don't give any indication why women in this age group aren't finishing the vaccine, despite it being common for women to be sexually active during these ages, Tracy hypothesizes the multi-step process can be difficult to manage.
"It's one of the first times in their life [these women] are managing their own health care," says Tracy. "They're on their own to remember to get the first dose, schedule the second appointment, show up, schedule the third appointment, and show up to that."
The electronic health records used in the study did not include the patients' reasons why they chose not to take either of the two available HPV vaccines on the market. One explanation may be the several adverse reactions associated with both of the vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documented "non-serious" adverse reactions include fainting, nausea, fever, and headache. Serious documented reactions include cases of blood clots, a muscle weakening disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, and even death.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. High-risk HPV infections from certain strains of HPV may lead to cervical cancer. You can read more about HPV, and both available vaccines, here.
Source : http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/10/a-fraction-of-eligible-women-opt-for-hpv-vaccine/