HPV infections down among teenage girls.
Research indicating a decline in HPV infections in teenage girls since the introduction of the HPV vaccine received widespread coverage in print and online, as well as in two of last night’s national news broadcasts. Although most sources and experts portrayed the findings as evidence of the vaccine’s benefits, much of the coverage focused on the relatively low vaccination rates in the US. Many sources also quoted CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
The CBS Evening News (6/19, story 7, 0:25, Pelley, 5.58M) reported that research indicates that “HPV infections among teenaged girls have dropped by 56 percent” since the introduction of a vaccine against the virus. NBC Nightly News (6/19, story 5, 0:25, Williams, 7.86M) reported, “The head of the CDC says it shows the vaccine is very effective.”
USA Today (6/19, Weise, 1.71M) reports that physicians “aren’t sure why the decline is so great, given that only 46% of young women have received at least one dose and only 32% have received all three.” However, Lauri Markowitz, lead author of the study and a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, indicated that “it could be what’s called herd immunity, in which the vaccinated women lower the overall amount of the virus in the population, thus lowering infection rates for everyone.” Markowitz said: “This decline is encouraging, given the substantial health and economic burden of HPV-associated disease.”
In a front-page story, the New York Times (6/20, A1, Tavernise, Subscription Publication, 1.68M) points out that “the sharp decline in the infection rate comes at a time of deepening worry among doctors and public health officials about the limited use of the HPV vaccine in the United States.” Across the US, “health departments… are scrambling for ways to increase vaccination rates, while nonprofit groups are using postcard reminders and social media campaigns and pediatricians are being encouraged to convince families of the vaccine’s benefits.” Meanwhile, there are some indications that resistance to the HPV vaccine is increasing. For instance, research published earlier this year “found that 44 percent of parents in 2010 said they did not intend to vaccinate their daughters, up from 40 percent in 2008.”
The Wall Street Journal (6/20, A6, Martin, Subscription Publication, 2.29M) reports that during a conference call, Frieden said, “The time has come to ramp up our efforts to protect the next generation against cancer.”
The NPR (6/20, Knox) “Shots” blog reports that, according to Frieden, “Of girls alive today between the ages of zero and 13, there will be 50,000 more cases of cancer if we don’t increase the rates to 80 percent.” He added, “And for every single year we delay in getting to 80 percent, another 4,400 women are going to develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes — even with good screening programs.”
In a commentary piece in the Huffington Post (6/20), Frieden writes that the findings “are striking and should be a wake-up call to our nation to make sure adolescent and teenage girls are vaccinated against HPV.” Frieden argues that “it’s time for healthcare providers, health departments and parents to move swiftly and act now protect the next generation of women against cervical cancer by increasing HPV vaccination rates.”
The AP (6/20, Stobbe) reports, “Overall, the study,” published online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, “found no significant change over time in the proportion of teens who’d ever had sex and in those who had multiple sex partners.” However, “it did find that a higher percentage of vaccinated teens said they’d had three or more sex partners,” which may “have driven down infection rates, Markowitz noted, if the teens who got vaccinated were the ones at highest risk of getting an infection and spreading it.”
Also covering the story are the NBC News (6/20, Aleccia) website, CBS News (6/20, Castillo) website, ABC News (6/19, Moisse) “Medical Unit” blog, Los Angeles Times (6/19, Kaplan, 692K) “Science Now” blog, PBS NewsHour (6/20, Kane) “The Rundown” blog, Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (6/20, Goldberg, 326K), Alabama Live (6/20, Oliver), HealthDay (6/20, Thompson), MedPage Today (6/20, Bankhead), and Medscape (6/20, Crane). “