Survey shows state HPV vaccination coverage falls short

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

More Vermont teens are getting vaccinated against whooping cough and meningococcal disease – but most are not fully vaccinated against human papilloma virus infection, which can cause cancer later in life. Three doses of the HPV vaccine given over six months are needed for a person to be fully protected.

According to the latest National Immunization Survey-Teen, HPV vaccination coverage falls short. In Vermont, rates of HPV vaccination increased just slightly for girls and boys, with one exception: boys age 13 to 17 who received the second dose of HPV vaccine rose significantly from 26 percent in 2013 to 41 percent in 2014, higher than the national average of 31 percent. Thirty-one percent of teen boys in Vermont completed the vaccination series and received all three doses, higher than the national average of 22 percent. Teen girls who received three doses of HPV vaccine rose slightly from 43 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2014, higher than the national average of 40 percent.

“The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention,” said Christine Finley, immunization program manager for the Vermont Department of Health. “Human papilloma virus is a very common infection especially among teens and young adults, and it’s a real risk for cancer. Because the vaccine is more effective when given at a younger age, it is recommended for all boys and girls between 11 and 12 years old.”

HPV vaccine protects against multiple types of cancer caused by persistent HPV infection, including cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women, the penis in men, and the anus and oropharynx (back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils) in both men and women. Yet half of teen girls and 70 percent of teen boys in Vermont are not fully vaccinated, and therefore vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infections.

The Health Department’s Immunization Program has partnered with the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP), the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Hicks Foundation to provide information to parents and health care providers about the importance of this vaccine for cancer prevention. The Vermont Immunization Registry also provides detailed quarterly reports to health care provider practices on their HPV immunization rates.

The 2014 National Immunization Survey-Teen is conducted each year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest report was released late last month. Overall results show an upward trend in the number of Vermont teens who received the recommended vaccines HPV, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and meningococcal disease in 2014.

— Staff report

Your Back-to-School Check-up

Dr. Lewis First

Parents have been testing me with questions about how to make sure their children get a good and healthy start as they head back to school at the end of the month. Let me take on that assignment and provide some information on that topic.

First, make sure your child is in good health by having a preschool checkup that includes making sure immunizations are up to date.

If your child does have a medical issue, such as an allergy, or chronic illness, such as diabetes, make sure you review these issues with the school nurse and your child’s teacher. They can create an emergency medical plan in case your child becomes sick while at school.

Make sure your children are given a good breakfast, either at home or through a school breakfast program, since they will be more alert and perform better with a morning meal in their stomachs.

Put bedtime routines in place too, even before school starts, since concentration is improved if a child gets a good night’s sleep. This should be at least nine hours, even for teenagers.


A great idea is to try to meet your child’s teacher before the year begins. If you can’t, due to work, then write a note to introduce yourself and your child to that teacher. This establishes a channel of open communication that will hopefully continue throughout the year. Don’t forget to read all the notices your child brings home about events and activities at school so you can stay informed of what’s going on throughout the year.

Finally don’t forget to include your children in the planning of their school schedule. For example, your children can help decide whether a snack comes before, during or after homework is done. Having them pick out their school supplies may also make them more excited about the upcoming school year. This creates a family partnership that will help ensure that homework and learning is a fun and regular part of your family’s schedule.

Hopefully tips like this will allow you to go to the head of the class when it comes to making sure your child gets a great start going back to school.


Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.