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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

HPV Update

The Kaiser Family Foundation has published a new fact sheet about the HPV vaccine, and below is a summary of some of the information in the fact sheet. HPV remains widespread in the United States. Recently the CDC reported that approximately one in four women ages 14-59 in the U.S. have HPV (27%), with the highest rates among women ages 20-24 (45%). There are more than 100 strains of HPV with over 30 types that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

The new vaccine, Gardasil, approved for use in women ages 9 to 26, prevents infection of four strains of HIV - 6, 11, 16, and 18. Strains 16 and 18 are associated with 70% of cervical cancer cases, while strains 6 and 11 are associated with 90% of genital warts cases. The vaccine is administered in three doses and has been shown to be effective up to five years, and it is not known yet if women will require a booster shot.

The 3-dose vaccine can cost $360, and many insurance companies cover it 100% as preventive care. There are also several federal programs that will pay for the vaccines including the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, the Immunization Grant Program for children who do not qualify for the VFC program, Medicaid, State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and Merck's recently established vaccine assistance fund for uninsured women 19 to 26 years old.

A recent CDC survey found that only 10% of women ages 18 to 26 had received the HPV vaccine as of the summer of 2007. In addition, public awareness and knowledge about HPV is limited. While the federal government has recommended universal vaccination for girls and young women in the United States, there are still financing, public acceptability and awareness issues to be overcome before that goal is met.

Photo credit: nathanf
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.