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Low HPV vaccination rates for Iowa teens concern Wellmark health experts


While vaccination rates for Iowa teens for human papillomavirus (HPV) are above the national average, there remains significant room for getting more teens vaccinated and preventing more HPV-related cancer cases, according to new data released by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The overall rate of those teens receiving their initial HPV vaccination in Iowa increased from 39% in 2016 to 63% in 2019, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association data. However, the number of Iowa adolescents returning to complete the second HPV dose remains at just 33%, just slightly above the national average of 29%. “The HPV vaccine can safely prevent multiple cancers, yet just one-third of Iowa’s adolescents are fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Tim Gutshall, Wellmark’s chief medical officer. “HPV can exist for years without symptoms and is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women and throat cancer in men. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand the benefits of this vaccine and the importance of following through with both doses to ensure the best protection.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, while certain throat cancer diagnoses are rising at unprecedented rates among both men and women. HPV is responsible for 70-90% of these cancers in the U.S. Two doses of the HPV vaccine are required for full immunity among this age group. The CDC recommends the vaccine for girls and boys between the ages of 10 and 13.

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