HPV vaccine completion rates among girls ages 9 to 18 have dropped significantly, by as much as 63 percent, according to researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston.
This is a crucial time for this particular age group to obtain the vaccine, before becoming sexually active. The HPV vaccine should be administered in three doses over a six-month period of time, but according to the study, most are obtaining the first dose, but not following through with the second and third dose.
As many of are aware, the HPV vaccine, approved in 2006, has the ability to minimize cancer risks among not only females but males as well. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women; approximately 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the US alone. HPV is also a contributing factor in vaginal, vulvar, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers.
Researchers examined insurance records of 271, 976 female patients greater than nine years of age who received the first dose of the HPV vaccine between 2006 and 2009. They discovered that out of this full sample, only 38.2 percent received all three doses within 365 days.
So why are patients not completing the HPV vaccine regimen?
While the vaccine is expensive, the sample population consisted of insured patients, so this should not have been a major contributing factor regarding poor follow up. The drop may be attributable to parents not being accustomed to taking their children to the doctor more than once or twice a year. Also, patients and parents may not understand that all three injections are required for HPV protection.
On the flip side, researchers found that females that received their first dose from an OB/GYN were more likely to complete the vaccine series than those who received their first dose from a pediatrician.
Are we as healthcare providers not doing a good enough job of educating parents and their children about the importance of compliance and stressing the significance of vaccine completion?
We need to improve communication and education with parents and their children regarding follow-up appointments and stress the importance of treatment compliance. Unfortunately, as oncology nurses, we normally donít see these patients until a cancer diagnosis has been made.
It may be helpful if members of the oncology community helped to educate our primary and pediatric medical peers. It is important to note that regardless of how much patient education we as a medical community provide, some patients will not be compliant.
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