HPV vaccination rates in Washington remain stubbornly low
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made headlines for finding that more than 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are infected with cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV). And with an HPV-associated cancer rate of 11.29 per 100,000 people, Washington has the highest rate of any state in the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho).
These findings dovetail with the Alliance’s findings in the 2016 Community Checkup report, which show that just 17 percent of adolescent boys and 22 percent of adolescent girls in Washington state received the recommended doses of HPV vaccine. Our new HPV highlight on the Community Checkup website provides an overview of HPV vaccinations in Washington state and vaccination rates by county and Accountable Community of Health (ACH).
HPV vaccination rates for boys and girls in Washington
According to the Washington State Department of Health, HPV is a very common infection, with some types producing warts in the skin and others leading to several types of cancer, especially cervical, anal and throat cancers. In fact, HPV accounts for more than 90 percent of cervical and anal cancers, about 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60 percent of penile cancers.
The good news is that most HPV-caused cancers can be prevented with the vaccine. HPV vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing infection from certain types of HPV when given before a person is exposed to the virus, starting at age 9. It is recommended that adolescent girls and boys get vaccinated by the age of 13, before they become sexually active, to help break the link and dramatically reduce the risk of diseases.
However, with low vaccination rates it can be difficult to achieve herd immunity. HPV vaccination is not required to attend school in Washington state, but it is available at no cost to adolescents less than 19 years of age.