Fewer girls, women getting HPV vaccines

CERVICAL CANCER — A recent study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore reports that fewer girls and women are getting HPV prevention vaccines or are failing to complete the three-dose regimen.

Lucy Berry News Editor

<span style=

“font-size: 14pt;”>Though the National Cancer Institute reports

that 12,200 new cases and 4,210 deaths related to cervical cancer

were reported in the United States in 2010, new research reveals

that a smaller number of teenage girls and young women are getting

the human papillomavirus (HPV<span style=

“font-size: 14pt;”>) vaccine.

The study found

that around one-third of teenage girls finish the three-dose

regimen, while approximately three-quarters of women fail to start

it at all, according to the University of Maryland School of

Medicine in Baltimore.

Gardasil and

Cervarix are the two vaccines that are recommended for 11 and 12

year-old girls and for females 13 through 26 years old. Gardasil

can also be given to males and protects against four HPV strands,

while Cervarix covers two HPV types that could lead to cervical

cancer. Neither vaccine can cure HPV once it is spread.


practitioner Peggy Bergeron said 32 pap smears were conducted at

the UNA Health and Wellness Center in 2010. Out of the 28 that

produced normal results, four cases were abnormal with high levels

of HPV.

“Screening is

the most important thing,” she said. “If the test comes back

abnormal, we refer them out to other gynecologists. You have to

limit your sexual partners and practice safer sex, as women have to

look at their potential for infertility.”

January is

Cervical Health Awareness Month and many organizations are working

to raise awareness about HPV, which the study said infects around

30 percent of 14-19 year olds who are sexually active.

Although the

vaccines have proven beneficial in protecting against HPV and only

produced minor side effects, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

said around 8 percent of 17,160 adverse event reports involving

Gardasil were considered serious, including hospitalization,

permanent disability, life-threatening illness and


CDC stated that

92 percent of adverse reactions following Gardasil vaccination were

non-serious, with fainting, pain and swelling at the injection

sight, nausea, headache and fever among the most widely-reported



Elliot, a certified registered nurse practitioner with Florence

OB/GYN Group, said she has only had one patient die of cervical

cancer within her 25 years of practice and believes regular pap

smears and personal wellness, not HPV vaccines, are the best

prevention methods.

“As a provider

and seeker of healthcare, I think everyone needs to research it,”

she said. “If you don’t want cervical cancer, then take care of

your body and your immune system. The drug representatives say

these vaccines are the best things since sliced bread, but I’m

suspicious of anything that’s been rushed through the


Elliot thinks

fewer women are getting the vaccine or completing the regimen

because of the pain associated with the shot, forgetfulness and/or

lack of health insurance.

Dr. Philip

Wakefield, a gynecologist with OB/GYN Associates of Northwest

Alabama, is a huge proponent of Gardasil and Cervarix and thinks

the vaccines should be administered to all sexually active people

up to 26 years old to prevent the spread of HPV.

“The amount of

cervical cancer in this country is astounding, as it is a very

preventable type of cancer,” he said. “I didn’t have daughters, but

if I did, I would have no questions with vaccinating them. All

college-aged men and women should be vaccinated. It doesn’t promote

them to be more sexually active and I would rather have my kids be

protected than have to play catch up.”

An estimated 20

million residents living in the United States are currently

infected with the HPV virus and around 50 percent of all sexually

active people will get the virus sometime in their lives, according

to the CDC. 

Dr. Edward W.

Smith, a doctor of homeopathy at the Florence Wellness Center, said

many mothers are apprehensive about both HPV vaccines but that

knowledge is key when considering the options about getting

children vaccinated.

”I tell parents

to get all the information that they can from the CDC, from HPV in

Pregnancy Registry and from VAER (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting

System),” he said. “They should talk to their doctor, then make an

intelligent decision about the shot. Parents are the one who will

have to provide 24-hour care for children of adverse