You wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop running a 5K a quarter of a mile before crossing the finish lineÃ¢â‚¬”or stop having sex just moments before orgasming. Yet 10 percent of women who start the HPV vaccination series never finish it, rendering it less effective, according to new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Researchers examined data from the National Health Interview Survey, which tracks more than 27,000 adults in the U.S. They found that, as of 2010 (the most recent year for which stats were available at the start of the study), more than 75 percent of women ages 18 to 26 had not begun the HPV vaccination series. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more, 10 percent of the women who had received at least one shot werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t administered all three doses. Since it's not yet known how much protection girls and women receive from just one or two doses of an HPV vaccine, it'sÃ‚Â crucial to finish out the series to reap the full benefits.
Introduced seven years ago, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series prevents infection from the four strains of HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine series also helps prevent cancers of the vulva and the vagina and is approved for the prevention of anal cancers in both men and women. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. At least half of all sexually active men and women contract genital HPV at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem: HPV vaccines are administered on a three-dose schedule, with the second shot administered one to two months after the first dose and the third shot administered six months after the first dose. Because of this, completion rates are an issue, says lead author Abbey Berenson, MD, director of the University of Texas Medical BranchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Most people do not typically need to go to the doctor three times in six months,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Berenson. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They forget their follow-up appointments or do not make them a priority.Ã¢â‚¬Â
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve missed one or two HPV shots, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not too late to finish the series. According to previous research from the University of Washington in Seattle, delaying doses of the vaccine wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t diminish the seriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ effectiveness. What may? Skipping a dose altogether, says Berenson.
The CDCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Advisory Committee on Immunization PracticesÃ‚Â recommends the vaccine to women up to age 26 who did not get one or all of the doses when they were younger. (The best option for females is getting vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12, but most of us were already older than that when the vaccine first became available.)
Planing to see your doc for the doses you missed? Two brands of the vaccine are approved for use in women (Cervarix and Gardasil). If possible, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best to get all of your doses from the same brandÃ¢â‚¬”so try to figure out which one you already received before you book your appointment. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a good idea to go ahead and schedule any follow-up appointments now. Once theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on your calendar, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be harder to miss.
photo: AbleStock.com/Thinkstock More from Women's Health:
The Health Risks of Oral Sex
Should I Get the HPV Vaccine?
Reduce Your Cervical Cancer Risk
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