Rural women are less likely to complete vaccinations for cervical-cancer virus; study finds vaccine does not increase sexual activity

Women living in rural areas of the U.S. were far less likely to return for their follow-up doses after they get the initial injection of the human papillomavirus vaccine, a study in the Journal of Rural Health has found. (Photo by Pete Rodman, Bowling Green Daily News)

The study contrasted the rates of vaccination follow-up by young women recruited from two rural locations and one urban location. “Despite being free, the researchers concluded that uptake of booster doses by rural women was problematic,” states an article in the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention‘s “RAP Time” publication. “This barrier might be resolved by providing the HPV doses at easy-to-access locations in rural communities, such as large grocery stores and area events.”
The HPV vaccine requires three doses. The women who went to the rural clinic were seven times less likely to return for at least one follow-up dose.
The vaccine, which has proven to prevent most cervical cancers, has been approved for use in women ages 9 to 26 years, as well as boys. The vaccine is generally given at the age of 11 or 12 and is effective only if administered before a person becomes sexually active. As many as 80 percent of men and women become infected with HPV during their lives, but most do not develop symptoms or illness.
The vaccine has been met with reluctance by parents, some of whom fear it encourages sexual activity, but a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found girls or women who received the vaccine “were no more likely to be sexually active or have more partners than those not vaccinated.”
Last year, just 49 percent of adolescent girls nationwide had received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and only a third had gotten all three. In Kentucky, just 25 percent of adolescent females had gotten the first dose and fewer than 11 percent had received all three doses.
In Kentucky, the annual death rate caused by cervical cancer is 2.9 deaths per 100,000. In the United States, it’s 2.4 per 100,000. “The U.S. is remaining stable. Kentucky’s is actually falling,” gynecologist Dr. Mark Yurchisin told Alyssa Harvey of the Bowling Green Daily News.
The decrease is being attributed to an increase in screenings. “In certain counties in Kentucky there is a high incidence, they implemented outreach clinics because they didn’t have clinics where they could get Pap screenings done,” Yurchisin said. “They can diagnose it at an earlier and treatable stage.” (Read more)
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